The Burlington School District is formally starting what it’s calling BHS/BTC 2025. It’s an initiative to build a new high school and technical education center by that year.

School officials know they’ll ask voters this November for permission to borrow money for the project. However, it’s far too soon to know exactly how large that bond will be.

“Four years ago, we knew that we needed to change our high school,” Burlington School District communication specialist Russ Elek said during a kick-off meeting Thursday night. “We knew that it was not serving the needs of our community, and as we tried to re-envision that and renovate that, it turned out that that was not possible.”

It wasn’t possible because extensive PCB chemical contamination forced the old campus to close, temporarily moving students and staff to the former Macy’s department store downtown.

According to the president of one of the architecture firms working on the new Burlington High School and Burlington Tech Center, a design concept is expected to be complete this spring. At the moment, the firms are looking at a size range for the complex of 260,000 to 315,000 square feet.

“We’ll work on a schematic design this summer that’s detailed enough to develop accurate cost estimates so that when the district votes in November, there’ll be — the scope and budget of the project will be well defined,” DRA Architects president Carl Franceschi said.

There’s no way to know yet how that budget will look, how much state and federal appropriation the district can get or how much grant money it can secure. School officials are exploring those funding avenues and others.

“We will definitely be seeking relief and support for the building in multiple different ways — through private donation, and state and federal funds,” Superintendent Ton Flanagan said.

He also noted Thursday night that there’s likely reason for optimism in the prospect of obtaining the relief and support he spoke about.

“I did make an ask of the governor for $3.5 million to help us with Downtown BHS, and he and the legislature supported that,” Flanagan added.

A Burlington resident asked about the potential burden on taxpayers, on top of both $43 million in outstanding bonds and the district’s annual budget. Flanagan answered that pushing lawmakers to adopt a new funding formula for K-12 education would minimize the tax burden.

“We currently have an inequitable funding formula that disproportionately under-funds Burlington, Winooski and some other districts,” he said. “Our school board has been working extremely hard in advocating at the State House and made significant progress there. (A bill concerning a new formula is) currently in the Senate (Education) Committee.”

There should be a similar BHS/BTC 2025 meeting next month, with others to follow. It’s also worth keeping in mind that no matter what happens with any bond vote, BHS and BTC will need a new, permanent home in the next few years — their temporary downtown home is due to be demolished in the final phase of the CityPlace Burlington development.