Officials: Burlington High School Needs $27 Million, All Schools Need Combined $65 Million

BURLINGTON, Vt. - The superintendent of Burlington schools is preparing to put a capital project on the November ballot. 

It could either be a proposal for repairs or even, a new high school altogether.

“We're at a stage where we can no longer hold back on this. We're in a very critical decision point.,” said Burlington School Superintendent Yaw Obeng.

Obeng is beginning his second school year as Burlington’s superintendent.

This comes months after he made waves by reassigning principals and reducing staff by 17.3 positions.

“That's never easy, that's not where you want to go. But we were in a situation that we had to climb ourselves out of,” he said.

Obeng said he had to cut the budget by $2.5 million.

“We need an accessible welcoming learning community for the 21st century,” said Debra Blumberg, a former Burlington teacher and current resident.

Blumberg attended Obeng’s first “Chats with the Superintendent” breakfast Tuesday morning.

The theme: the large amount of repairs and upgrades needed at many of Burlington’s nine schools.

The cost for all the repairs is about $65 million, Obeng says.

“That would give us the bare bones and get us to par in terms of satisfying the basic needs," he said.

“Many of these ramps are too steep,” said Burlington Property Services Director Marty Spaulding, as he toured Burlington High School.

The high school was built in 1963 and has not undergone many upgrades.

“It requires a lot more navigating for an individual who is handicapped than an able-bodied person to navigate through this very large building,” said Spaulding.

Many of the upgrades needed have to do with handicapped accessibility.

"If you're someone who's not totally mobile, if there's an emergency, you might not be able to escape. You can't access certain parts of our school in terms of programming with ease,” said superintendent Obeng.

“We also have our auditorium at this lower level. We do not have any ADA accessibility without going outdoors and down the sidewalk,” said Spaulding.

Superintendent Obeng says the high school itself needs $27 million in repairs and upgrades.

That decision is ultimately up to voters.

He says the district is in the early stages of putting together a proposal for the November ballot.

“By that point, we should have enough engagement from the community to have a level of awareness around what people are willing to invest. What do we fix? What do we patch up? Or do we tear some things down and rebuild?” said Obeng.

It’s estimated to cost up to $90 million to build a new high school.

The Burlington School District is holding a community input session on the facilities plan Wednesday night.

It will be held from 7-9pm at the high school cafeteria.


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