MVRHS building committee seeks community input

Board looks for sitting members outside school walls.

The newly formed MVRHS building committee discussed ways to actively involve the public in an approximately $1.5 million undertaking over a three-year span where officials will decide, with the help of a consultant, the road ahead for the high school.

The original plan to make much-needed renovations to the school facilities, or to build a new structure entirely, has been a continuous effort since the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) vetoed funding over the past two years. The MSBA funds up to 50 percent of school building project costs.

Superintendent Matt D’Andrea said the board needs members of the community to add diversity and credibility to a currently employee-heavy group. The board already has five members who are employed by the school, and D’Andrea said the final number of members would likely be around 20, with two teachers and two administrators as voting members. “If we are looking to cap at around 20, we are going to need to shave down the number of school employees that are already here,” he said.

Board member Brian Packish said the school faces a significant public relations challenge between now and town meeting. “Getting outside of this building is essential. We need some depth in the community,” Packish said. He explained that the hardest part about building a new and improved facility isn’t the architectural and construction work involved, it is garnering support from the people who will be affected. “Anybody can draw a building; there are architects all over the world,” Packish said. “Selling it to the community is the biggest thing.”

Finance manager Mark Friedman told the board vocational areas are some of the most-needed programs in the school, but are also very beneficial to the community. “These areas are the ones that directly support local businesses,” Friedman said. He suggested involving local business leaders in the process going forward.

Committee member Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter reminded the board there is still no Chilmark representative and town administrator representative. Friedman suggested Tim Carroll could fill both those roles and “kill two birds with one stone.”

The board also discussed the feasibility study required to move forward with planning. D’Andrea said Joe Sullivan from Daedalus Projects (an owner’s project management firm) will be heading the project. Manter said it would be prudent to hire Sullivan on an hourly basis to refine the projected overall cost of the project. “It would be good to have a more precise number of how much we are going to ask for from the MSBA and the towns,” Manter said.

School Principal Sara Dingledy said the school is 165,000 square feet in total, but the issue is not as simple as applying the total space to a formula. “A lot of the process is reconfiguring the space, because our facilities are so contiguous,” Dingledy said.

D’Andrea said in two weeks the committee will be full, at which point a chair will be elected, and Sullivan will be invited to help refine the school feasibility study.

The school needs the seal of approval from each town before it can move forward. Packish said the sooner the school submits a warrant article to each town, the better. “You are going to need to act fast to stand a chance of actually getting fit in,” he said.

Anyone interested in being a sitting member of the committee can email Ruda Stone at rstone@mvyps.org.