BURLINGTON, Vt. – On Tuesday, the Burlington School Board voted unanimously to approve Institute Road as the site for a new high school. District officials are hoping to have the new school ready by August 2025, and it will sit across the road from the old building that was vacated due to PCB contamination.
The tight timeline is one of several reasons the board and Superintendent Tom Flanagan ultimately decided to go with the north side of Institute Road instead of the Gateway Block in downtown Burlington.
“We are a temporary high school serving over 1000 students, faculty and staff at a temporary location,” said Clare Wool, chair of the school board. “They deserve a location they can focus on over the next three years… Time is of the essence.”
School board members had some lingering questions about building on Institute Road, including whether the demolition of the old building could pose construction issues on the other side of the street. Flanagan said building on the Gateway Block likely would have brought more uncertainty into the fold.
“It is unable to accommodate both Burlington High School and the Burlington Technical Center,” Flanagan said. “There are unknown development challenges that would create a protracted timeline.”
In addition, Flanagan said community feedback largely favored the Institute Road site.
The urgency to build has also been fueled in part by a growing sense of ‘cabin fever’ at Downtown BHS. Beth Fialko-Casey, a teacher, suggested it hasn’t exactly been a picnic holding classes at the former Macy’s building.
“The past ten months have been taxing,” Fialko-Casey told the school board. “In order for BHS to truly thrive as a community, we need a space that creates possibilities.”
In August, there were 16 possible locations for the new high school under consideration. PCB contamination at the existing high school campus prompted school officials to close it last year.