D’Andrea reiterates seven-figure plea

High school committee votes unanimously to send Mass. School Building Authority a statement of interest.

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MVRHS is looking for town meeting support to do a feasibility study on whether to renovate or build a new high school. –Gabrielle Mannino

Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools Superintendent Matt D’Andrea told the high school committee he and his administrators will be at each of the four town meetings next week to field budgetary questions and to support an aggregate $1,083,732 warrant request for the high school to fund a feasibility study with schematics, and special kind of architectural contractor called an owner’s building manager or OPM, to explore remodeling the high school or erecting a new one. He invited the committee to visit town meetings and lend their endorsements.

“The message is stronger when school committee members also speak in favor of articles,” he said. To that end, D’Andrea said he will be drafting talking points committee members are welcome to use. He will also have a handout describing the feasibility study.

“All of you, the school committee, are tremendously, tremendously supportive of the schools. And I greatly appreciate that, the administration greatly appreciates that, and the teachers greatly appreciate that. I also know that some of you are not supportive of the feasibility study warrant article. And I understand why — there are many issues outside of just the warrant article. I want to share with you why I think this has to happen now, and I know that all of you have heard what I’m going to say.’

D’Andrea went on to say he was repeating his pitch for the feasibility study to the committee for the purpose of informing MVTV viewers.

“Why do we have to do this now? This building is a growing liability, much like OPEB [other post-employment benefits], it’s a growing liability every single year,” he said. With each passing year the costs associated with the high school only mount, D’Andrea said.

“We have a CTE [Career Technical Education] area that is antiquated, with a leaking roof; we have floor tiles falling apart,” he said. He pointed out the HVAC system is so unreliable, some winter days it’s questionable whether or not the school can open. Hot water can’t reach locker room showers, he said, and doors and windows are not functional.

“I feel that we can and should do better, and now is the time,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, I know there’s resistance to this, but it’s something I think we need to press forward on.”

Committee member Roxanne Ackerman asked D’Andrea to explain how his office arrived at the figure the towns will be asked to support — $1.4 million minus $316,268 from excess and deficiency funds for the sum of $1,083,732.

D’Andrea said his office consulted with an OPM and an architect for recommendations on an appropriate figure. What they recommended was based on school districts of similar size to Martha’s Vineyard.

“How far into the process does that take us?” Ackerman asked of the feasibility study.

“They would run a number of visioning exercises across the Island, inviting in people, stakeholders from all across the Island, to provide input for what they would like to see for this facility not just around education but also for the entire community. It develops an education plan, looks at the current condition of the building, and then comes up with a number of alternatives that meet the educational plan for our school district. We as a community, led by the building committee, then make a selection of which one of those alternatives is our preferred construction project.”

D’Andrea went on to say the study will show, among other things, the costs and possibilities of an entirely new building and that of a “base renovation.”

“We don’t have anybody on Martha’s Vineyard who could do that?” Ackerman asked.

D’Andrea said it’s possible there could be.

Business administrator Amy Tierney later told The Times the position of owner’s project manager is required by Massachusetts law for work on any public building that will exceed $1.5 million. The funds requested in the warrant will help Islanders to decide if they “want to just put Band-Aids on” the high school, or “if they want to knock it down and build anew.”

To help fund whatever project is undertaken for the high school, the committee voted unanimously to send a letter of intent to Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the same entity Tisbury voters rebuffed when it offered $14.6 million to help build a new Tisbury School.

Later asked if she feared MSBA might still have a bitter taste in its mouth after the Tisbury School vote, Tierney said its work is based on formulaic analysis, however, “they know Tisbury is a member of the regional high school district.”

Come what may, she said “with or without the MSBA, we’re a go.” But should they not provide any funding, “it may tone down the project.”

In an ideal world, Tierney said, the district would be able to solicit donations like a nonprofit, but that’s just not permissible for a public entity, therefore the district must bring the high school’s funding needs to the taxpayers.