Tisbury School officials will weigh options for new school

A workshop on April 3 seeks community input.

The building committee has voted to keep the Tisbury School at its current location. —Stacey Rupolo

Tisbury School leaders, with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), are deciding whether to renovate the existing school or build a new one. The current school, the MSBA has determined, does not have enough space to meet the needs of its roughly 320 students. The Tisbury School was built in 1929, with a gymnasium added in 1938, and a library and more classroom space added in the early 1990s.

“This school has served this town on this location for almost 100 years,” Peter Turowski, president of Turowski2 Architecture, told school officials last week. “This is a plan for the next 100 years. That’s a big question for you as a community to think about.”

The feasibility study and schematic design for the project began last summer with a designated project team at the MSBA, an owner’s project manager (OPM), and an architect. The OPM is a Boston-based firm, Daedalus, that has worked previously on the Vineyard. The town of Tisbury is the owner of the project, and Daedalus manages it. Turowski2 Architecture, based in Marion, is the architect.

The options that the feasibility study explore are renovation of the building as is; renovation and an addition; construction of a new building at the current location; or construction of a new building at a new location.

The project must be decided on before May 18, which is when the Tisbury School building subcommittee has to submit its preferred project. The MSBA board will vote on the project on June 28, and a final design is expected to be presented to the MSBA in December. If that design is approved by the MSBA, it will then go to town meeting next April for a local vote on the final project and its costs.

Island residents will have two opportunities for community input, on Monday, April 3 at 10:30 am and 7 pm in the Emergency Services Facility in Tisbury. There will be a presentation, along with workshops that break into small groups to have more intimate discussions regarding the various site plans. The groups will reconvene to have a larger discussion at the end.

Last Wednesday, the Tisbury School committee and its building subcommittee, along with the OPM and the architectural design team, met to weigh all the building project options, a stipulation the state requires to participate in the program.

The two proposed sites for new locations of the school are the Manter Well site, beyond the former Vineyard Nursing Association building down Holmes Hole Road, and a site off West Spring Street known as the Tashmoo Well site.

In April 2015, Tisbury School was one of eight chosen out of a pool of nearly 100 schools across the state to join the MSBA program. In January 2016, the MSBA invited Tisbury School to enter the “eligibility period” for its grant program, which gives financial and instructional support to communities that must repair or replace a school. This step put the town on the planning and funding path.

Tisbury School Principal John Custer said that the financial and instructional support are the great advantages of working with MSBA, as it oversees the project and offers guidance and expertise. MSBA provides state reimbursement for a school building project, and the Tisbury School was approved for 41.26 percent reimbursement of most of the project costs. However, not all costs are reimbursable, and because the MSBA must spread money throughout the state, it has a cap on construction costs.

For a base repair of the current school, cost estimates were set at $19.8 million, with an estimated grant of $6.1 million, leaving the cost to the town at $13.7 million. To renovate the current school and build an addition, the estimated project cost was set at $48.1 million, with a grant of about $15 million, costing the town $33.1 million. To construct a new school on the current site, demolishing the current building, would have a total project cost of around $47.9 million, and with a roughly $15 million grant, would cost the town $32.9 million.

For building at the Tashmoo Well site, cost estimates are $44.6 million, and with a $13.5 million grant, the project would cost $31.1 million. The Manter Well site has a projected $46.3 million cost, and with a $14 million grant, would cost $32.3 million.

“All are viable sites,” Mr. Turowski told school and town officials.

An initial ranking of the options, he said, put the Manter Well site first, with the most flexibility and space. The existing site was ranked second, and the Tashmoo Well site was ranked third, “but even a close second,” he said.

No school or town officials weighed in on which projects they personally felt were better than others.

Clarence “Trip” Barnes, Tisbury commissioner at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), urged committee members to start narrowing the projects down.

“We’ve got people working in trailers on top of High Point Lane. We’ve got the police station blocked, taking up traffic by the new Stop and Shop,” Mr. Barnes said. “There’s some big changes that are probably going to happen at the same time, but at least if we’re having meetings on this, I’d think you’d want to pick one out now, or maybe at least get it down to two.”

Cheryl Doble, a member of the Tisbury planning board, asked about base renovations to the school as a viable option.

“Is that realistic, given the space needs?” Ms. Doble asked.

“Economically, it doesn’t make sense,” Joseph Sullivan, a representative of the OPM, Daedalus Projects, said.

“You’re going to get a feel from the public forum which direction most of the people would like to go,” Mr. Sullivan said. “At some point, you’ve got to bite the bullet and make that decision.”