Burlington prepares to vote on new school

Tom+Flanagan+interviewed+by+reporter

Cecily Spence

Tom Flanagan interviewed by reporter

Cecily Spence, Managing Editor

Burlington voters will flock to the polls on November 8 to vote on the bond that will pay for the construction of a new high school to replace the old BHS and the Burlington Technical Center.

No source has provided an alternative plan if the bond does not pass. Assuming however that it does, the timeline is set to progress rapidly. Demolition of the Institute Road buildings is set to begin in January 2023. Construction will begin in June 2023 and the project is expected to be complete by August 2025. Although this is an aggressive timeline, Superintendent Tom Flanagan is optimistic.

“If we do this right, you [will] see more and more instances of students and teachers feeling like they are pursuing their interests, doing work that is meaningful and connected, and making a positive impact on their communities,” Flanagan said. “I also think this work can create a learning organization that students and teachers are proud to be a part of.”

In a Register survey of 222 BHS students, over 80% said that we need a new school. The survey also asked students which facilities at dtBHS negatively impacted learning. 152 students surveyed reported the lack of walls, 176 students reported the lack of windows, 154 students said the lighting and 150 students reported the absence of a full-sized gymnasium. 

“It is unfortunate that in my time at BHS I will never use the new building, but I think it is necessary to take time designing and constructing the new school so it can be used long term,” Grace Park ‘24 said.

Although the current students at BHS will not have access to the new school, many still see the benefits of the project. 

“My little sister is in 4th grade right now, and so even though I will not be able to enjoy a new high school, I’m really hopeful that she will be able to have a quality learning experience,” Nico Hochanadel ‘23 said. “I am hopeful that the Burlington voters will choose to pass the bond because even though it will result in some higher taxes, the long-term benefits of having a high school are so much more important.”

On the evening of September 21, BSD staff, Superintendent Tom Flanagan, BSD Executive Director of Finance Operations Nathan Lavery, an architect with company Freeman French Freeman, Jesse Beck, and Project Manager at Capital Project Consulting Marty Spaulding, joined in the Downtown BHS Library for a first viewing to see some of the newest conceptual renderings of the new school. 

This follows the creation of the strategic 5-year-plan to guide the district’s work while building the brand new high school at Institute Road. In August of 2021, Superintendent Flanagan launched the Burlington Strategic Planning Coalition to help co-create the vision. 

“I feel great about our five-year strategic plan,” Flanagan said. “The process of co-constructing, or building something together with multiple individuals…was really powerful and gave us five priorities that capture the hopes, dreams and goals of our community really well.”

I hope most people realize that it isn’t realistic for Burlington’s School District to continue operating without a real high school building.”

— Grace Park

 

The coalition is made up of more than 50 community members who were trained and then conducted over 100 interviews with Burlington community members to better understand the school systems’ strengths and weaknesses. They participated in writing the 5-year plan and voted on major decisions as they arose throughout the process.

“Our approach on radical inclusion involved direct contact to several hundred families and students from historically marginalized groups including race, ability and income. We ended up with a group that truly looked like our district in terms of these demographics,” Flanagan said. 

BHS has successfully set aside $25 million in BSD resources and funds to support the new high school. These funds include $10m from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), $5m from the BSD budget and surplus funds that will be set aside over the next five years, and $10 million that will be redirected from the 2017 Capital Plan Bond. On top of the $25 million, the district has plans to further lessen the economic impact on taxpayers. These plans include fundraising, private grants, donations through the Burlington Student’s Foundation and requesting federal aid where possible.

“I hope most people realize that it isn’t realistic for Burlington’s School District to continue operating without a real high school building,” Park said.