Opponents of tech school ask voters to reject proposal

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(Host) Critics of a proposal to build a new technical high school in Chittenden County say the needs of students who are interested in these programs would be better served if voters reject this project on Town Meeting Day. Voters in 25 communities in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties will decide if the planning process for a proposal to consolidate technical education programs in a new centralized school should go forward.

Currently, the region has two technical centers – one at Burlington High school and another in Essex. The two centers have roughly 750 students enrolled. Backers of the new school estimate that as many as 1,200 students will enroll in their facility.

Speaking Tuesday night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Winooski Reprepresentative George Cross said he opposes the plan because he favors a decentralized approach to technical education:

(Cross) “Of those students at the Burlington center, 55 percent of those kids come from Burlington High School. So over 150 of those kids are from Burlington High School. Now will those 150 kids pick up and leave Burlington High School for two years? Or did those 150 kids take technical education because they could simply go down the hallway and do it? That’s a question that I don’t think the planners have really examined closely and taken a real hard look at.”

(Host) But Chris Smith, who serves on the planning committee for the project, says that a centralized approach is needed for many of the highly technical programs that will be offered at the new school:

(Smith) “The Department of Education did an independent study and concluded that the two centers in Chittenden County were both in need of renovations and expansion. And so the volunteer committee that’s worked over the last few years has put together a plan that will improve the delivery of technical education and will improve the availability of education to students in the region.”

(Host) Smith says if voters reject the next step for the project next week, it’s likely that the proposal will be shelved for the foreseeable future.

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