Having spent the better part of eight months kicking the can down the road after voters rejected a $46.6 million plan for a new Tisbury School, selectmen and the school committee agreed during a joint meeting Monday night to spend as much as $532,000 on repairs to the existing school and to start the ball rolling toward a renovation and addition at the existing school.
The proposals will now go before voters in April.
It was selectman Jim Rogers who pushed for being specific in asking for renovation and addition. A draft article was written vaguely to seek $400,000 to pay for an owners’ project manager and architect to explore “any future improvements for the Tisbury School Facility.” About $71,000 of that is money left over from the feasibility study that resulted in asking voters to build a new school.
Rogers said voters have told him they would support a renovation of the existing school, but not a new building like the one that was previously proposed. “This board was asked by several people, after the failed vote, to show leadership,” he said. “We’re trying to do that. That’s the reason for my motion.”
School committee member Janet Packer liked the idea. “Will this town support a addition and renovation and all that entails, because it’s not just a new paint job?” she said. “We need to find that out.”
Paying for the renovations and addition will be the more difficult question. The town left $14.6 million in state money on the table when voters rejected a new school. And there was skepticism among school officials that the Massachusetts School Building Authority would financially support a renovation project.
“I think our options are limited based on direction,” town administrator Jay Grande said. “The good news is there’s direction.”
School committee member Colleen McAndrews asked how the town would make it affordable for taxpayers. Selectmen chairman Tristan Israel and Rogers said they would work to find funding alternatives.
Rogers said some of the information already gleaned by the owners’ project manager and architect during the feasibility study could be used to expedite the project. “It’s not really starting all over again,” he said.
While there had been animosity in the days, weeks, and even months after the new school lost at the polls by 21 votes in April, selectmen and the school committee were cordial and conciliatory Monday.
“I’m hopeful we can move forward in a direction holistically — kids, people who live here — we’re all in this,” Israel said. “Try again and get it right.”
During the one-hour joint meeting, the two boards unanimously approved a town meeting warrant article that seeks $122,000 for repairs to a gym wall, the school’s front entrance, and six classroom floors. An additional article seeks up to $410,000 for testing, cleaning, and remediation of mold throughout the school, although the town may save money because the teachers’ union has already agreed to test the building’s air quality based on a complaint from one of its members.
The articles will appear on the warrant as being “co-sponsored” by the two boards.
It’s unclear if all of the $410,000 would be needed, because the extent of the mold problem is not known, but the building has leaks in windows and a heating and ventilation system that is not functioning properly.
In a final show of consensus, the two boards scrapped plans for a survey of voters. What to ask and how to ask it had been a bone of contention between the boards at a meeting last month.