What kind of facilities do we need to meet the community’s goals for educating our children both now and decades into the future? South Burlington has been wrestling with this question for several years. Over the past few months, faculty, administrators, parents, community members, and students have been working to answer this question with a focus on the middle and high schools.
The architectural firm Dore and Whittier was hired last year to perform Phase I of an analysis of the current state of the middle and high school buildings. Their report, provided in April 2018, describes facilities that have been well-maintained but are showing their age. The high school was built in 1960 and the middle school in 1967. Concerns noted in the report include outdated heating, ventilation, cooling, and electrical systems, antiquated food service equipment, lack of accessibility for students with physical limitations, roofs that need to be replaced soon, and several other significant issues. The architects estimate that it would cost approximately $31 million to update both schools without making any improvements to the configuration of learning spaces.
Beyond these maintenance concerns, the delivery of education, and the needs of South Burlington’s students have changed significantly since the buildings were constructed. The structure of both buildings has constrained, to an extent, the district’s ability to adapt to new educational practices. Faculty and staff work hard to make the most of the current facilities, but many possible changes to the buildings could make scheduling easier, allow faculty and staff to better support students as they take more control over their own learning, improve faculty collaboration, provide more space for small group work and presentation of student work, and improve the health and safety of the learning environments, among other goals.
Phase II of the analysis of the two buildings, led by Dore and Whittier, is now underway with the goal of identifying upgrades that would improve the delivery of education. The architects have convened a working group of district administrators, faculty, students, staff, and board members to help them gather the information they need to develop options for the two schools. These options will then be considered by the district and the community.
To date, Phase II has included several working group meetings, a full-day principals’ workshop to gather input from students and faculty, a full-day community visioning session with over 60 participants, a two-day tour of five schools in Massachusetts that have been renovated or rebuilt in the past few years, and a visit to Shelburne Community School, which recently renovated its middle school. A second principals’ workshop in December will review what has been learned so far and begin to set priorities for the architects to address.
Dore and Whittier will use this information to create options for each building ranging from minor renovations and repairs to new buildings. They will provide cost estimates for each of the options and a rough outline of what the timing might be for implementing each option if the district were to choose it. The final report for this work is expected in late winter 2019. In the meantime, updates are provided regularly at school board meetings. Community members who would like more information or have comments on the process are encouraged to contact Superintendent David Young.