Burlington High School has already been forced to close until at least September 18 — but not because of the coronavirus.
A test in one of the school buildings found hazardous air conditions, Burlington School District Superintendent Tom Flanagan wrote in an email to parents late Wednesday afternoon.
After one day of new student orientation and one day of virtual learning,
students were scheduled for the first day of in-person learning on Thursday. Instead, there will be no school on Thursday and Friday and remote-only classes all of next week.
Students won’t return to the building until Monday, September 21, at the earliest.
“Thank you for your patience and flexibility,” Flanagan wrote in his email. “I am sorry to have to relay this message as I know everyone was looking forward to being back in-person to start the year.”
Last week, environmental consultants tested the air quality throughout the Burlington High School/Burlington Technical Center campus for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other hazardous materials as part of the school’s $70 million renovation project, dubbed the ReEnvisioning Project.
Results received on Wednesday indicated a higher level of PCBs than recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Flanagan wrote.
In a Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Health fact sheet attached to the email, PCBs are described as “a group of human-made chemicals … widely used in building materials and electrical products in the past.” Studies have found that the chemicals cause cancer in animals and have negative effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems; the EPA banned their production in 1978.
Flanagan said that classes for Burlington High School, Burlington Technical Center and OnTop students would resume remotely on Monday, September 14, and continue remotely through the week while the district awaits test results from all the campus’ buildings.
Burlington High School had intended to follow a hybrid learning model, in which half of the student body attends in-person school on Monday and Thursday, and the other half attends on Tuesday and Friday.