Tisbury School building committee picks plan

School committee will explore outreach to consider public concerns.

The Tisbury School Building Committee picked a plan that will keep the old school up while a new school is built next door. — Courtesy Tisbury School Building

The Tisbury School building committee chose a site and design plan for a proposed new school on Monday night, and also heard that the town’s school committee plans to undertake a public meeting campaign to address concerns from the public that have accompanied the project.

“We need to follow a parallel course here,” Colleen McAndrews, chairman of the building committee and a school committee member, said. “We [building committee] need to focus on the building plan. We voted to do that, and there is plenty of work to do.”

Ms. McAndrews said the school committee has agreed to work on public opinion and community education aspects of the project. On Tuesday, she told The Times that the school committee has scheduled a public meeting in the Tisbury School library at 7 pm on Monday, Oct. 2, to discuss the plan.

The school committee does not currently plan to develop a Plan B renovation/addition plan, but left the door open. “We want to hear and address concerns people may have. It isn’t the intention of the school committee to develop a renovation option, though that could be a result,” Ms. McAndrews said. “We’ve always known that a Plan B might be necessary if our building project is not supported at town meeting.”

The building committee has decided not to pursue a renovation option because it found the renovation approach would not meet financial or educational needs, she said.

Ms. McAndrews said that details on financial and educational pros and cons are on the Tisbury School Project website, and will be on the table for public discussion next Monday.

Ms. McAndrews’ comments follow a series of public comment meetings during a two-year process at which a number of voters have expressed continuing resistance to building the estimated $48 million school absent a detailed cost comparison with a renovation/addition option.

At a building committee meeting called earlier this month to review site and building design plans, attendees again focused on the build-or-renovate topic.

Ms. McAndrews’ comments on Monday night came after an impassioned plea opening the meeting by member Reade Milne, calling for greater outreach and education on the new building plan before the matter is presented to annual town meeting next April. Ms. Milne’s plea represented a fear that voters might not approve the plan at town meeting. “We don’t want to waste two years of good hard work. Have an open house and invite people to see the crumbling bricks and the windows that don’t work,” she suggested.

The building committee and its design and construction planning partners have estimated that renovation and additions would cost about $3 million more than a new building, be disruptive to students, and deliver a less effective building and education, but “people want to see an apples-to-apples comparison,” one committee member observed on Monday night.

The building committee voted earlier this year to pursue the new building option, and has been moving the process in accordance with a timeline provided by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which would pay for at least 41.26 percent of the new building if its plan meets detailed state education standards, such as 900-square-foot classroom size. The project could earn an additional two “bonus points” of state funding if it qualifies for LEED certification for energy efficiency.

Following presentations by architect Peter Turowski of T2 Architecture in Marion, and owner’s project manager Richard Marks, president of Daedalus Projects in Boston, the building committee voted 13-0 with one abstention to pursue a three-story, 81,000-square-foot structure set into a hill on the 5.15-acre current Tisbury School site between West William and Spring streets.

Building committee member Dan Seidman, who participated by phone from an airport, was the lone abstention. Mr. Seidman said he abstained because he did not then have access to the presentation under discussion.

The Monday-night vote completes the feasibility and design phase of the project approved by MSBA. The MSBA will reimburse Tisbury for 40 percent of the more than $800,000 approved at town meeting last year for the work.

Members chose the option, known as 3B, over an alternative siting option that would have required demolition of the current school before construction began on the new building. That plan would have required housing students in temporary modular classrooms at an additional cost of $750,000. Completion of the new school is targeted for the 2021 school year.

Building committee members spent some time on Monday night brainstorming ideas to reduce costs while meeting state standards for funding. The discussion provided few concrete answers, though about $1 million in potential savings were identified.

Next steps in the building plan include determination of contractor selection by either the “design-bid-build process” or a “construction manager at risk process,” which Mr. Marks described as “not as risky as it sounds.” As Mr. Marks discussed and compared the options, the design-bid-build option generally goes to the lowest bidder working from a specific set of predetermined plans. The construction manager at risk idea allows project clients to select the contractor they prefer, and provides for more interaction with the contractor during the process.

Mr. Marks said the options are used equally in Massachusetts construction projects, but cautioned that the bid process would likely attract fewer bidders because “there is plenty of work right now, and bidders may not want the perceived hassle of a project on an island.”

A decision on the process is slated to be completed by mid-November as the building committee moves toward a January 2018 deadline to submit a complete plan to the MSBA.

This week, committee members will tour the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown schools, and will visit two off-Island schools for comparisons. A series of meetings on sustainability and security for the new building also began this week.

The building committee meets next on Oct. 10 at the Tisbury School.