Vermont high school students have returned to full-time education in a completely unexpected new location.
In the summer of 2020, during renovations at Downtown Burlington High School in Burlington, Vermont, builders discovered toxic industrial waste, resulting in the decision to close the school. The students were moved to distance learning, which did not raise much of an issue in pandemic times. But all the while, the school authorities were looking for a new building big enough and suitable for educational purposes.
The result was unexpected - they decided to use the former Macy's department store closed in 2018. Architects who inspected the building concluded that it's possible to transform the retail space into a school. The renovation project took several months and cost $3.5 million. According to the Associated Press, the state supports the project and provided funding for the transformation.
Many of the department store's interior's original details were retained during the remodel, such as white tile floors, carpeting, escalators, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, and Levi's signs. The former Chinese department is now a library, and the gym (not yet completed) is housed in the former warehouse. The retail space has been closed off with partitions, turning it into a classroom.
The transformation is not ideal because the building was initially designed as a department store and was in no way intended for school. The pupils, for example, complain about the noise because the light ceilings, which do not reach the top, do not provide proper soundproofing. And the lack of windows doesn't add to their comfort.
But on the whole, everyone is happy. Many students like the unusual ambiance because they once visited the building to do their shopping. And on the whole, everyone is satisfied that they can no longer sit at home and start hanging out with friends again even if the pandemic causes certain restrictions.
The department store building has been leased for three and a half years. The authorities hope that the old school's safety issues will be resolved at the end of this period. It will be possible to return to classes in the intended initial premises.