Manter site needs to be protected


To the Editor:
There are good arguments concerning the best use of the two sites under consideration for the school, but locating a new school at the Manter site is NOT one of them.
The Manter area is both a woodland preserve and a water protection area. The town, the Land Bank, and various conservation groups have been working together for years to incorporate these needs into a large protected “green belt” around both Tisbury and Oak Bluffs. Multiple individuals and groups have testified to this point. A review of the land holdings in this area reveals a combination of town lands, Land Bank properties, Sheriff’s Meadow property, and a few private properties, all threaded together with connecting paths and ancient ways. It is already an impressive accomplishment, yet still a work in progress. At no time has this area ever been considered a suitable site for a school, nor should it be now.
We already have a very good site for the school. Numerous individuals and groups, including the town’s board of selectmen and the town’s planning board, have made convincing cases for keeping it there. But we do need to go further. There is an assumption that the existing site is too difficult, too small, and too complicated to accommodate all the demands of a 21st century school building. Not so; this site is the ideal location of just such a school — compact, walkable, nestled within the community itself; connected to its history, its neighborhoods, and the needs of its children. There is no reason why the new requirements cannot be accommodated here.
What we have failed to do so far is present a compelling vision for just what our newly transformed school might be like. For that, we will need step back and take a much more careful and detailed look at the site as it is today. The architects will have to go beyond their initial schematic and investigate a variety of approaches that resolve problems and expand on opportunities; and they will need to present these alternatives to the public for their input.
Overarching all these concerns is the question of how we, together, in the heart of our own community, can cooperate to create a place for our children and their school, one that will serve us for decades, and one that we will all point to with pride.

Henry Stephenson