Vote no on the new school


To the editor:

I have lived in Tisbury for 31 years, Martha’s Vineyard for 41 years. Our three children went to the Tisbury School. They were very well prepared for high school by our excellent teaching staff. I helped start the parent-teacher organization at the Tisbury School, and I was a longtime substitute school nurse. I spent five years on the Tisbury Planning Board. I cannot remember a single time that we did not, as a town, support our school. The proposal for a new school has been a difficult issue to oppose, as demonstrated at last week’s town meeting. There are people who want to keep our classic school, and they were afraid to vote no.

I have been trying to sort out facts from fiction about the Tisbury School project. Last week at the town meeting, it came to the attention of Tisbury taxpayers that there has been a strong effort within the Tisbury school community for at least the past five years to build a new school. Ben Robinson, planning board chairman, presented school committee minutes of votes taken dating back to 2013 that document this. This is a fact. Here are a few more:

Fact: The school building committee, made up mostly of teachers and administrators, voted quickly, after the Manter well site was discounted as a location for a new school, to build new. They had almost zero discussion about a renovation and addition project.

Fact: Our school has been allowed to deteriorate deliberately. It is called “deferred maintenance,” which I and others call neglect. Go see for yourself  what I saw: the fogged windows, peeling paint, floors down to bare wood (yes, there are real wood floors in our school!), rust, and a general disheveled appearance of the rooms. When I asked why, I was told, “Because we are building a new school.”

Fact: The trailers need to go away. The cafeteria is small. An addition could accomplish this goal and free up those remaining interior spaces for other uses.

Fact: The state prefers to see renovations over new construction. It also offers funding for renovations, sometimes more than for building new.

Fact: The state does not require moving walls to create 900-square-foot classrooms for renovations.

I believe that the claim that a renovation and addition would cost more than a new school has not been substantiated. Here is why. I and others have attended a few  committee meetings at which my and their questions about what was the process used to come to the conclusion that we need to destroy our school and build a new one was met with non-answers such as “Thank you for coming to the meeting,” “Please come to another meeting,” and so on. I even sat at one meeting at which one TSBC member asked, “Where’s the swimming pool and ice skating rink going?” Instead of laughter, which I thought would follow that, the architect said, “We can do that.” In other words, there are no limits. I have never left a meeting in the middle until that night.

When I was a child, my mother used to instruct me and my siblings at Christmas to make a list of what we wanted, and what we needed. This is the right time to look again at what we want versus what we need. Starting over would be better than going down the rabbit hole with a wildly expensive, overbuilt, high-maintenance new school. Please vote no on Question 1 on April 24.

Marie Laursen