New playground in the works for West Tisbury students

Monday, the Up-Island school committee heard about a three-year plan to upgrade recreational facilities at the West Tisbury School.

Playground equipment at the West Tisbury School will be removed and replaced this summer. – Photo by Sam Moore

By the end of the summer, new playground equipment is expected to be in place at the West Tisbury School as part of a long-range plan to upgrade the recreational facilities. West Tisbury School principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt presented the proposed plans at a meeting of the Up-Island Regional School District Monday night.

The plan includes the removal and replacement of the “big toy” equipment, upgrades to the basketball court and soccer field, and the creation of a K-2 outdoor learning area.

The project will begin the week after school concludes in June with the removal of the current playground equipment. Monday, Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said the existing “big toy” is failing and must be removed as soon as school finishes. The replacement of the equipment will occur sometime in early July. In total – including the removal, preparation, playground structure, and surfacing – the price tag will be around $295,000. School officials will seek funding from the district towns, private donations, and fundraising.

Even though the replacement is necessary for safety purposes, the project will also include many upgrades.

“This utilizes the space much better and creates a flow, a movement for kids in age-specific activities,” West Tisbury assistant principal Mary Boyd said. “It should allow for a much more functional playground space.”

The playground will also be largely ADA accessible due to the material of the ground surfacing and approachability of the new equipment.

“The material is a surfacing that will allow for strollers and wheelchairs and other accessibility devices in a way that no playground on the Island currently has,” Ms. Boyd said.

The basketball court and soccer field upgrade is set to occur in summer 2017, and the K-2 outdoor learning area between 2017 and 2018. Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said the latter two projects are not necessarily considered time sensitive.

In other business, the committee unanimously approved taking on $995,000 worth of short-term debt to make extraordinary repairs to the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools. A laundry list of items include bathroom renovations and new flooring at the West Tisbury School and roof and gutter repairs at the Chilmark School.

The committee unanimously approved, along with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Tribal Council, the Up-Island Regional School District Indian Policies and Procedures, which was last approved in 2009. The policy is mandatory under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and was made in collaborative effort with the tribe with the purpose of serving as an outline to “ensure the equal participation of Indian children in the education programs of their schools” and “encourage communication between the schools and the Indian community.”

The committee voted to table a decision over whether or not to participate in the Islandwide school choice program – which provides the opportunity for Island students to attend a school outside of his or her hometown school – until a discussion is held among the All-Island School Committee this spring. Every school committee is asked to opt into the program prior to June 1 of each year. This year, however, the school choice formula, which asks that the receiving school absorb the costs of the school choice children, has been a point of contention among the Island school committees.