Union lawyer: Tisbury School ‘not in good shape’

Water damage, ventilation issues plague building.

The 150-plus windows at Tisbury school pose a big concern, as most are foggy, cracked, and are leaking. — Gabrielle Mannino

A lawyer for the union that represents teachers at Tisbury School has pointed out what teachers, administrators, and town officials have known for some time — the aging building is in disrepair.

“It is clear that the Tisbury School will require substantial funding to address the issues at the school,” Sarah Gibson, the attorney hired by the Martha’s Vineyard Education Association, wrote after visiting the school twice. “The building is not in good shape. The current state of the building is disheartening, to say the least.”

Gibson issued a report prior to Tuesday’s joint meeting between the board of selectmen and school committee. At that meeting, selectmen kept an article on the town meeting warrant and town ballot seeking a Proposition 2½ capital exemption, but is still working out the wording of that article as the April 9 town meeting and April 23 elections approach.

Gibson visited the school on Jan. 4 and Feb. 18 to look at concerns raised by members of the union over health and safety concerns. Her report points to water intrusion throughout the school building, which in some cases has caused rot and other damage. “In the teachers’ room, the seal around the window has deteriorated to the point that daylight is visible through the seal,” Gibson wrote. “Not surprising, fixtures in classrooms show signs of water-related deterioration, or mold/mildew growth.”

Buckling classroom floors were observed, which are “obvious fall hazards,” she wrote. “In addition to the many problems with the building envelope, the ventilation system in the building suffers from age and lack of adequate capacity.”

Gibson wrote that the building’s condition calls for “immediate and long-term attention.”

Her letter is addressed to Tisbury School teachers Rita Jeffers and Natalie Krauthamer. Reached Thursday, Jeffers said she would have to consult with union representatives before responding to questions.

John Custer, principal at Tisbury School, said the report reinforces the needs that school officials tried to address with last year’s failed vote for a new school.

“None of it was surprising,” Custer said. “It reinforces what the feasibility study said.”

In her report, Gibson recommends a warrant article address conducting an assessment of the building to determine what short-term measures “can sensibly be taken to address the obvious and serious issues” with the building. She wrote that the short-term priority should be the building envelope and ventilation issues. “Although testing for mold spores might identify locations in the building affected by mold, I would suggest that initially, in lieu of testing for the presence of mold, any building assessments be targeted toward resolving water intrusion issues generally,” Gibson wrote.

Gibson suggests teachers could pursue free testing through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Town officials toured the school in August, and many of the issues pointed out by Gibson were evident at that time.