The school board voted unanimously on June 6 to move forward with plans to build a new, connected middle and high school at the existing 500 Dorset Street campus. 

This once-in-a-generation project will set the stage for the delivery of education in South Burlington for the next several decades. The board has instructed Dore & Whittier Architects to lead a process to produce a design for the new building with a target of seeking community approval for a bond to fund the project in March 2020. 

After reviewing the work done by Dore & Whittier through the Phase I and Phase II Master Planning studies they have conducted over the past two years, along with information gathered through other studies and visioning processes over several years, the board determined that building a new, connected middle and high school would provide the highest educational return on the community’s investment. Extending the life of the existing buildings by improving only their internal systems would cost tens of millions of dollars but would produce very little improvement in the delivery of education. More extensive, education-focused renovations would require complicated construction phasing and the use of temporary classroom space, increasing costs to a point close to or even higher than those for new construction. 

New construction allows more of the community’s investment to be used to improve education directly. Perhaps most importantly, new construction gives the architects the most freedom to design a building that fits our community’s vision for education and has the maximum flexibility to adapt to future changes in the delivery of education. A new building that connects the two schools will be more efficient to operate and maintain because certain elements can be shared, like a single kitchen serving two separate cafeterias and a single heating and cooling infrastructure serving the entire building. Many other considerations were taken into account by the board as it made its decision, and there are many resources and links available on the district website for those who wish to learn more (www.sbschools.net/domain/233).

The next phase of the project requires significant community input. The designs produced during the Phase II study were extremely preliminary and meant only to generate an “apples-to-apples” comparison to allow the board to make a decision about which general direction to take. Deeper design work will happen over the next several months during the “pre-bond-vote” phase. Over the summer, the architects will spend a lot of time with faculty, staff and administrators to refine priorities and generate a design that will be the basis for community input sessions in the fall. After incorporating community input, the more refined design will be used to develop a more accurate cost estimate and determine the amount of capital needed to fund the project.

Even at this early stage, community input is welcome with regard to questions that will have a significant impact on the final design of the building. If you would like to be part of the process of designing a middle and high school campus that will serve South Burlington’s children and the wider community for decades to come, please reach out to David Young or your school board members by email or phone, and the district will notify you of opportunities to provide input as they are scheduled.

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