Tisbury residents weigh in on new school

Tisbury School building committee will decide on a project by May 18.

The Tisbury School building committee will decide on a single project for the new school by May 18. —Stacey Rupolo

The 19 members of the Tisbury School building committee will decide what to do about a new or reconstructed town school before May 18. But before they decide, they want Tisbury voters to help them choose.

The options are to build new — on the existing school site or at a new location — or to renovate the current school, or renovate it but with an addition. The preferred plan must be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) grant program by mid-May.

“We got to a point where we knew that the only way we could responsibly go forward was hearing from the public,” Colleen McAndrews, chairman of the Tisbury School building committee, said. Two workshops held Monday began the last leg of the decision process, although they did not settle the questions the committee posed.

In April 2015, Tisbury School was one of eight chosen from a pool of nearly 100 schools across the state to join the MSBA program, which gives financial aid and advice to towns building new schools or rebuilding old ones.

The MSBA found that the old Tisbury School, built in 1929, does not have enough space to meet the needs of the roughly 320 students it houses. The town added a gymnasium in 1938, and a library and more classroom space in the early 1990s.

Residents were not happy about demolishing the existing building because of what they called its historic value. They considered how it might be reused for another purpose: for housing, a town hall, a police department, town offices, or a library.

There are two proposed sites for a new building, the Manter Well site, beyond the former Vineyard Nursing Association building on Holmes Hole Road, spacious but far from the town center; or a site off West Spring Street known as the Tashmoo Well site. The Tashmoo Well location is land already claimed by Tisbury Water Works, and it is in a watershed district.

Each site has a single access, and new construction would be needed to improve the roads and add sidewalks. And there are safety issues that will need resolution.

Preliminary cost estimates after MSBA reimbursement are around $30 million for each of the large projects, except for the base repair of the school, which would cost about $14 million. The MSBA has agreed to cover 41.26 percent of the project, but not all project costs are reimbursable.

Christina Opper of Daedalus, the private firm that manages the project for the town, said the reimbursement varies based on the kind of construction — whether it’s a renovation, if there are green elements in the design — so it is hard to say exactly what the reimbursement will be.

For example, the Manter Well site construction option has an estimated $46.3 million cost, and the MSBA grant was projected at $14 million, which would leave the town to pay $32.3 million.

Melinda Loberg, chairman of the Tisbury selectmen, said she hoped residents would declare themselves to help guide school and town officials.

The town will vote on the entire project — the site, the design, and the cost — either at a special town meeting in the fall or at the annual town meeting in the spring of 2018.

If the town opposes the project, the school would need to start over with the MSBA. Tisbury would have to fund its own feasibility study the second time around, and the school would have to reapply for a grant for which more than 200 school districts are vying.

“The nice thing about the MSBA is they don’t force you to make a decision based on cost,” Peter Turowski, president of Turowski2 Architecture and one of the architects of the project, said during the workshop. “They absolutely want you to do the best thing for your town, and the thing that your town is going to support at the ballot, on this project.”

“The town will have the last word,” Ms. Loberg said.