High school facilities tour highlights career-training roadblocks

School leaders said the inadequate state of the building is holding back plans to expand career education.

CTE director Barbara-Jean Chauvin explained that the small Maritime Sciences classroom does not have enough space to provide for the latest mapping technology. – Photo by Cathryn McCann

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) is one of the few schools in the state that offer a robust and diverse career-training program for high school students. However, the poor condition of the building is hampering efforts to maintain and expand the program in order to prepare students for the future.

Leaky windows, small classrooms, and irregular temperature control are just a few of the problems that have dogged the Career Technical Education (CTE) wing for years. The poor state of the building was the topic of a presentation and facility tour by school leaders on Thursday night.

“We are very, very fortunate that we have a CTE program right here in our high school,” Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea said. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”

Interim school Principal Peg Regan said her goal is to provide students with an education that will help them gain employment on the Island.

“Our big task in the next five to seven years is to reclaim and move those children, those graduates of our high school, into that economy, so that the money stays here,” she said. “It provides money for people who come here, it provides a living for people who want to raise their children here, and it becomes a perpetual cycle of benefit for the high school, for the community, and for the Island.”

Currently, the inadequate facilities are preventing school leaders and instructors from being able to achieve that goal, she said.

“We are not in a place right now where we can adequately prepare kids for the workforce in terms of what kinds of facilities we have, that you’ll see tonight,” she said. “Our ambition is great, but our facilities are poor.”

School leaders will apply to the Massachusetts State Building Authority grant process, which provides funding and instruction to schools in need of repair, for the second time this year. Ms. Regan said she hopes the school’s exclusivity as a comprehensive CTE and academic school will set it apart in the competitive grant process.

Tour of troubles

Following the presentation, school employees, parents, and community members were led throughout the CTE wing of the school. In the culinary kitchen, there are problems with freezing pipes, a leaking ceiling, windows in disrepair, broken equipment, and a quirky exhaust system that when activated, also turns on the heat. “When June approaches, it can get quite hot,” culinary instructor Jack O’Malley said.

Despite that, the space — which is home to about 50 culinary students throughout the day — is still good, he said. “I do think this is a great kitchen,” Mr. O’Malley said. “I think the kids are really lucky.”

In the building trades shop, there are more windows in disrepair, many of which allow water to seep down into the work area, flooding the floor.

“The tabletop saws are strategically placed on that side of the room so they don’t get wet,” building trades instructor Bill Seabourne said. “This whole area gets covered in water; we have to sweep it up when it rains.” Additionally, the classrooms are on the mezzanine level of the room, and are not ADA-accessible. However, Mr. Seabourne also expressed pride in his space.

“This is our shop; it’s a wonderful space,” he said. “We’re really proud of it. I think a lot of carpenter people would be envious of our space.”

In the automotive technology shop, the rotting exit door jamb flexes so much that the door cannot open and close properly. “I’ve actually been sitting at my desk and seen mice and rats come in the door,” automotive trade instructor Ken Ward said. Additionally, the garage door doesn’t have a properly fastened safety stop, which could cause it to come crashing down.

The air-handling system doesn’t function properly — a necessary feature in an area where fumes and dust are abundant — and a small ceiling heater is the only source of heat. “During the day, with the door constantly opening and closing to bring cars in and out, it’s not really adequate enough for winter,” Mr. Ward said. “We’re constantly chilly in here.”

The health-assisting classroom suffers from a lack of storage, space, and bathroom facilities. “One of the challenges that we’re facing with this program is the state sets recommended square footage for each program area, and this space is too small by about 50 percent,” CTE director Barbara-Jean Chauvin said. “So we would need to add approximately another standard-size classroom to this space, and bathroom facilities, in order to make it on par.”

The maritime-sciences program is run out of a small, noticeably hot classroom. “The first thing that should hit you when you come in this room is the temperature,” Ms. Chauvin said. “The air exchange is minimal, and the temperature is excessive. That’s problematic.” Additionally, the space can only hold about 10 students, and little of the necessary technology, such as electronic navigation systems.

The radio station, home to a fledgling broadcasting program that Ms. Chauvin hopes will be certified by next year, is a room about 10 by 10 feet in size. It can house about five students at a time. “It’s a significant space issue,” Ms. Chauvin said. “I’d like to find a space so we can have the radio station in more of a lab-like setting.”

Finally, the greenhouses, where the horticultural-sciences program takes place, have aged considerably. The oldest was built in 1962, horticulture instructor John Wojtkielo said: “The oldest greenhouse is deteriorating. We’ve been trying to fiddle with foam, and it works to keep the rats out, but the building is basically ready to fall apart.”

In addition to the problems with the current spaces, Ms. Chauvin is also hoping to introduce new programs — engineering technology, environmental sciences, and business/marketing/hospitality — in the coming years. A lack of space to house those programs impedes that goal, however.

During the tour, one parent asked if there was money to address some of the problems. School finance manager Mark Friedman said it was a matter of how to best utilize the money that the budget currently has allotted. There’s about $175,000 in the operating budget for repairs, he said. The school hired Mike Taus, school district facilities manager, at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year to oversee those repairs.

“But, for example, we just went out to bid, and we have a contract of about $300,000 right now just to repair the unit ventilators, the heating system,” he said. “When you look at a building of this size with all the different systems and structures and windows — we have hundreds of thousands. The needs are millions.”