Burlington’s new high school could cost $207 million, district says

  • File: Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven days
  • Burlington High School Institute Road Campus

Updated at 9:46 p.m.

The Burlington School District said Tuesday that a new high school and technical center could cost between $161 million and $207 million.

This estimate does not include the additional $26 million to $29 million the district would need to demolish the current buildings on the Institute Road campus and safely dispose of contaminated soil and building materials.

The district released the estimate on the afternoon of Town Meeting Day, as Burlingtonians voted on a possible tax hike and capital requirement for new city spending. The school budget of $98.2 million was also on the ballot, representing a 13.1% increase in spending per student over last year. But the district said it would likely amount to a reduction for ratepayers due to a surplus in the state education fund.

The district is expected to discuss the new estimate at Wednesday’s school board meeting. The price range is based on general data on construction costs per square foot, as well as architectural, site, engineering and consultant fees, Superintendent Tom Flanagan said in a letter to families and to staff.

The lower end of the potential price reflects the cost of a 273,040 square foot building, while the higher estimate is for a 315,850 square foot building.

The district intends to post voter bail for the new high school in November.

But, Flanagan said in his letter, “we will work hard to make sure Burlingtonians don’t have to bear the full cost of this project.”

The district has already earmarked more than $11 million — $10 million in federal emergency aid funds for elementary and secondary schools and $1.5 million more — for the project. Flanagan said. School officials will seek additional state and federal support, as well as grants and donations. Either way, the bond will be a big ask for Burlington voters, many of whom are paying higher taxes after a property reassessment last year.

Asked about the estimate after polls closed on Tuesday, Mayor Miro Weinberger acknowledged that “these are telling numbers.

“But I think when you sort through this comprehensive analysis, I hope they’re on the right track to come up with a proposal that will be a huge step forward for the kids in this community and will represent…a world-class high school, finally, for this community,” he said, “and it will be something that we can responsibly afford.”

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The Institute Road campus has been closed since fall 2020, when the district discovered high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in several classrooms. As of March 2021, students attend school in the old downtown Macy’s building.

In May of that year, the school board voted to end a $70 million renovation of the New North End campus after environmental consultants discovered that PCB contamination was even more prevalent than never thought before – in building floors, window caulking, walls, ceiling, floor and air. Burlington voters had approved a bond to fund this project in November 2018.

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Last November, the board voted to build a new high school and technology center on the old campus. The new building, which the district hopes to complete by summer 2025, is expected to occupy the area east of the existing high school, between the old buildings and North Avenue. District officials had considered building the school in downtown Burlington. But they ultimately decided that building on the existing campus was “the most fiscally responsible option,” Flanagan said at the time.

School trustees approved a design team for the new high school made up of three firms: Freeman, French, Freeman; Colin Lindberg & Associates; and Drummey Rosane Anderson.

According to a schedule released on Tuesday, the team is due to complete its final conceptual design options and project cost estimates for the new high school by March 28, and present them to the school board and at a public forum in the following weeks. .

If all goes according to plan, the school board will select a conceptual design for the building on April 21. The board will likely approve a final design and cost estimate over the summer. Then voters would consider a bond in November and construction would begin in the summer of 2023, with the goal of completing high school in two years.

In her letter, Flanagan invited members of the community to attend Wednesday’s school board meeting virtually or in person to learn more about the high school project. Updates are also available at BHS/BTC 2025 Webpage.

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