High school relocates to 'dystopian' new building after toxic chemical incident: 'Living in a movie'

Kelsey Weekman
·2 min read

High school students in Burlington, Vt., have been having a particularly weird year. It started with a global pandemic and ended with attending class in an old Macy’s department store.

In March 2020, Burlington High School classes went remote due to COVID-19. Then, in September, students were poised to return for a new school year, but the building was shuttered indefinitely after elevated levels of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected, according to local news outlet Seven Days.

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Thankfully, the school district found a solution to begin in-person learning once more — and on March 4, the high schoolers went up the escalator in an old Macy’s to get to class.

This unconventional school building went viral when TikTok user Miranda Ljung-Baruth shared footage of her new classroom.

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Commenters thought the new set-up was pretty cool.

“You’re living in a movie. Main character moment,” one said.

“This is the start of a new Netflix show,” another wrote.

Ljung-Baruth did tell a commenter “it sucks,” though, unfortunately.

Credit: Cat Cutillo/Seven Days
Credit: Cat Cutillo/Seven Days

She told BuzzFeed News there are now classrooms with Calvin Klein, Levi’s, and Ralph Lauren signage as well as a Michael Kors sign in the new cafeteria. The fitting rooms are now bathrooms and books are displayed as merchandise.

Credit: Cat Cutillo/Seven Days
Credit: Cat Cutillo/Seven Days

“My first day was super weird. It felt like walking around an airport,” she said. “It was all polished and there was no natural light, but I’m getting used to it now.”

Local news outlet SevenDaysVT shared more in-depth footage of the new school, which was shot by producer and videographer Cat Cutillo.

According to WCAX, it took 10 weeks to convert the space on a $10 million budget. They’ll be using the abandoned mall for up to three years.

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