The Burlington High School (BHS) ReEnvisioning Committee, the committee charged with the high school remodel process, held an extensive press conference at BHS on Thursday, October 4. The list of speakers included the superintendent, school board members, city councilors, BHS students, local business owners, the president of the teachers union, PTO leaders and Burlington Mayor Weinberger. They all had one message: vote yes for BHS.
The bond, which will appear on the November 6 ballot, includes funds for expansion, renovation, and partial demolition of the current BHS building.
“Education has changed in the last 60 years, our school building has not,” Superintendent Yaw Obeng said.
Part of the change to which Obeng referred includes the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Although ADA passed in 1980, BHS still lacks the legal accommodations mandated for students with disabilities to have equal access to their education.
Manny Dodson, an able bodied BHS senior, joined students holding signs in support of the bond. Although he did not make an official statement at the conference, he said he sees the need to level the playing field every day.
“A lot of it’s about handicap accessibility. I’ve seen people having to leave the building in negative degree weather. That just shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Dodson said. “For me, it’s an inconvenience. For people who don’t get around as easily, for people who are handicapped, it’s an actual impairment on their [ability] to learn.”
Dodson also referenced the extreme temperatures the classrooms experience, which seemed to be a theme throughout the statements made by BHS students, both current and graduates. Dodson said the uncomfortable temperatures make it hard for students to focus in class.
“When I see students having to wear their winter jackets all winter long in the school cause it’s so cold in the classrooms, that’s not Seahorse pride,” City Councilor and BHS alum, Dave Hartnett said. “When I see them bringing their umbrellas into the school on rainy days and they have to use their umbrellas inside, to me, that’s not Seahorse pride.”
Just this past Tuesday, the hallway between B and C building was closed due to a deluge of leaks in the roof. In order to get to C building, students had to walk from A to D to E buildings before backtracking to C. Along with being extraordinarily long, this detour included multiple changes in floor level. For students with disabilities, this meant an extra venture outside the building.
Aside from accessibility and weather, speakers touched on a variety of issues facing current BHS students. Many of the students who spoke will graduate by the time the proposed renovation is completed. Yet Emma Barker, a junior at BHS, still feels obligated to support it. She said although the end of her time in Burlington schools draws near, it does not mark the end of her involvement in the Burlington community.
“I care about our schools, and I care about education. I think that it’s really important to have a space that reflects [our] pride in our community,” Barker said.
Watch the full press conference on the BHS Register Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BHSregister/