MVRHS building repairs top the summer to-do list

The results of several building studies will dictate how to best utilize the 2016 budget.

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Extended employee sick leave has put a strain on the high school budget. – File photo by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) has a full laundry list of necessary building-repair projects. As a result, the school committee and administration have contracted with several engineers and architects to conduct studies on the school with the hope of identifying all the problems, and prioritizing repairs.

The results of those studies are expected to be presented when the MVRHS school committee meets Thursday, June 25, at 5 pm in the Library Conference Room.

“The new principal, Gil Traverso, came in like gangbusters in the best way possible, and spent the school year identifying the problems,” MVRHS school committee Chairman Lisa Reagan said. “It includes at least three professional studies to determine the scope, the width, and the breadth of the problem.”

She said the results of those studies will determine how to best move forward with all the necessary repairs.

Amy Tierney, business manager in the superintendent’s office, said that the first examination was a “building envelope study” that looked at the exterior walls, doors, windows, foundations, and roofs. Another study was based on turning the existing library into a global learning center. Chartwells, a food-service management corporation, conducted a study on the cafeteria kitchen. A study was also done on the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system by an HVAC engineer. Ms. Tierney said all the studies are “just about wrapped up.”

The final study conducted by the school, a space needs and feasibility study, was just initiated. It is a large-scope study that will incorporate the needs of all the other studies, and look at the spatial needs of the building and the cost of adding or retrofitting any additional spaces. That study will be completed in September.

Ms. Tierney said she hopes the majority of the first studies will be done by the school committee meeting on Thursday, so discussion can begin over appropriating the money necessary for the repairs. She said she didn’t have a final report, but the drafts suggested that the costs would be in the millions.

“We will prioritize the work and go into the budget season in the fall with a plan for these improvements. It will probably require that the high school do a bond issue to raise that kind of money,” Ms. Tierney said. “If there’s anything that can be done right away that the high school has money for in their budget or in their capital plan, we will be doing that over the summer.”

She said there are plans this summer for smaller projects, such as painting and retiling in some of the classrooms. Over the school year, new stalls were installed in the bathrooms, potholes were fixed in the drive-through, and leaks in the roof above the vocational department were repaired.

But according to Ms. Tierney, it is the much larger projects that are most pressing.

“The most pressing issue I think we have is the HVAC system,” she said. “The heat and hot water and some of the air conditioning are just not functioning properly in the building. That stuff is so expensive, because it has such big air-handling systems.”

Ms. Tierney also said the space-needs study will likely turn up some serious space-allocation problems. She said the programming space and vocational classrooms aren’t big enough, and the shop areas aren’t up-to-date. She said space also needs to be made for new vocational programs and an extra section of math.

“Looking at the tight quarters of all of the offices in the building — the transportation office especially; they’re in a closet with no windows, it’s awful,” Ms. Tierney said, “we’re trying to find space for them somewhere else. Those are some of the top things that I am working with them on right now.”

“July 1st we also receive a new budget with new money to do work on the building, so we’ll be deciding what work we’ll do over the summer and what will wait until after the space-needs study is finished, based on what we can afford with what we have in our budget and our reserves,” Ms. Tierney said. “They’ll be presented with a capital plan at that point as well.”

Ms. Reagan said the space-needs study will also dictate how to move forward with a new superintendent’s office. Voters at annual town meeting have already rejected one plan.

“We’re in a holding pattern right now deciding what’s the best way to proceed,” she said. “Do we attach that building to the existing structure? How do we best meet the needs of the people who work in that building and still take care of the high school in a fiscally responsible way?”

In addition to receiving the results of the studies, the school committee will discuss how to utilize the new fiscal year 2016 budget that goes into effect on July 1.

The goal is to allocate funds so the MVRHS can provide the best learning environment possible. “We want the kids to be in a healthy, structurally sound school,” Ms. Reagan said.