West Tisbury School in home stretch on summer renovation project

West Tisbury School's exterior renovations are a work in progress. — Photo by Janet Hefler

Glistening new windows and light-colored shingles are evidence of a fast-paced $1.55 million exterior renovation project in progress at West Tisbury School this summer. Despite the presence of a safety fence and exterior work yet to be done, school officials are optimistic that the general contractor, Builders Systems Inc. (BSI) of Sandwich, will wrap up the project on time and within budget.

BSI is under a tight contract schedule to complete interior work by September 6, except for some punch-list items, before school starts on September 8. Exterior work can continue until October 6 during non-school hours, according to school business administrator Amy Tierney.

“Builders Systems Inc. has been efficient in their scheduling and work has progressed according to the schedule (of only 71 days),” Ms. Tierney wrote in an email dated August 19 in response to questions from The Times. “With less than three weeks left everything looks a bit chaotic, but we have been assured it will all be finished.”

BSI got a jump on the project by staging construction materials at the school before summer vacation started. On June 21, the last day of school, a deconstruction team hired by BSI began to pull shingles off the building, take out windows and doors, and strip shingles from the roof.

Over the summer 117 of the school’s 133 windows were replaced and new trim installed inside and out. Windows that previously could not be reached were either removed altogether or replaced with an electronic switch that will open and close them, Ms. Tierney said.

Portions of the roof were redone, and many soffits repaired and vented. All new gutters and downspouts will be installed. Exterior cedar shingles were replaced, along with other woodwork, Ms. Tierney said. Some structural deficiencies in an outer wall of the cafeteria also were corrected.

To add to West Tisbury School’s new look, all exterior doors, pipe railings and roof-mounted items will be repainted. In addition, Ms. Tierney said, “We are dressing up the entrance pergola, and we replaced all the hand rails on outdoor decks.”

On the school grounds, a fir tree planted too close to the building was removed and a beautiful new maple tree, partially donated by Vineyard Gardens, planted in a better location to replace it.

Ms. Tierney said some low-voltage wiring issues at the school would be addressed at a later time, over a vacation period.

“The school will look good from the outside, and be a sturdy and healthy building,” West Tisbury School Principal Michael Halt said in a phone conversation last week. “When we open up, the school should be water-tight, weather-proof, and good for many years to come.”

Mr. Halt said he could not say enough good things about BSI and Chris Raye, vice president and manager of the Sandwich office.

“We still have a tight timeline, but the general contractor is mindful of the fact we have work to do once he gets done,” Mr. Halt said. “Once BSI finishes up, we will be trying to turn around quickly and do the cleaning we usually do prior to school starting.”

Mr. Halt said the subcontractors have been good to work with, as well. A few weeks ago, the project ran into a snag a when a heavy rainstorm hit while a portion of the roof that was under repair had no shingles. Rain leaked into a corridor off the library that contains three multi-age classrooms.

“The weather caught us in a vulnerable stage, and we suffered some interior damage,” Mr. Halt said. “To their credit, the roofing company, Meadows Construction of Topsfield, took responsibility and replaced or is in the process of replacing everything that was identified as damaged from water intrusion.”

The Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) awarded BSI a construction contract for the school’s exterior renovation on May 10. The construction bid cost estimate for the project was advertised at $1.3 million. BSI’s winning bid was $1,147,477.

West Tisbury School’s renovation project began with the discovery that windows needed to be replaced. A subsequent architectural review of the school building revealed other serious design flaws that date back to 1973 and created other issues, such as roof leaks and heating and ventilation problems.

The UIRSD received a professional cost estimate of $1,557,000 for the total project in March 2010. Under the terms of the capital formula in the UIRSD agreement between the member towns West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Chilmark, West Tisbury will foot 80 percent of the repair bill and the other two towns 10 percent each.

The school district set aside $250,000 towards window repairs at West Tisbury School, following approval by voters in the three member towns at town meetings in 2010.

The UIRSD school committee then put out a request for proposals and hired the architect firm. Keenan and Kenny Architects in Falmouth were awarded the project’s design contract in June 2010. The architects finalized the renovation plans in March this year.

Ms. Tierney said the UIRSD member towns authorized the school district to borrow money for the project as of July 10. The project was started with money left over from the original fiscal year 2010 appropriation for a phased plan for windows.

Since only about $60,000 of the $250,000 already allocated for window repair had been spent, the project was started with the remaining $190,000. That reduced the total amount the school district would have to borrow for the renovation project.

“Our bond anticipation note was put out to bid on August 1 and we accepted a bid from Eastern Bank at a rate of 0.9 percent for the next 6 months,” Ms. Tierney explained in her email.

“We purchased a $1,500,000 bond anticipation note for temporary borrowing, until we sell the official bond in November for $1,500,000 when we are all finished and know exactly what we need to borrow,” she added. “We might come in under budget, and borrow only $1,450,000, for example.”