At a school committee meeting Wednesday, Tisbury School officials called for a delay to the start of school and relocation of students due to the confirmed presence of chipping lead paint in the school.
Testing was performed this month to determine the scope of asbestos and lead in the school after a Department of Public Health report recommended the town do testing. A lead removal contractor will be on site to begin remediation on Friday, August 23.
According to a letter from superintendent Matt D’Andrea to parents and faculty, the first day of school for Tisbury students will be postponed from Tuesday, September 3, to Monday, September 9 to allow staff to prepare for the school year in a remote location.
Students in kindergarten through grade four will be relocated to Camp Jabberwocky in Tisbury.
Students in grades five through eight will be relocated to MVRHS. Bus transportation will be provided to all students, according to the letter.
The Tisbury School will be starting late, but all other schools on the Island will start on the normal date of September 3.
Specialists drew 50 to 60 samples for testing to determine the presence of asbestos and lead paint. Superintendent Matt D’Andrea wrote that many buildings on the Island contain asbestos and lead, “the concern is when these substances break down.”
Since much of the peeling lead paint is located behind drop ceilings and paneled walls, D’Andrea said it is difficult to determine how long students were exposed.
“Most of the lead was concealed and not out in the open,” D’Andrea said. “We want to ensure parents that students will be constantly supervised throughout this time.”
According to the letter, asbestos in the Tisbury School is intact and not a health concern, but lead paint in some areas is peeling and requires remediation.
Speaking to The Times by phone Thursday, D’Andrea said school officials are currently fleshing out details on how the students will be integrated into the normal high school student body.
“We are still working on things like where and when the students will eat, and when they will use the bathrooms,” D’Andrea said.
D’Andrea said the high school was built to accommodate up to 900 students, and he doesn’t think the additional students will put too much stress on the facility. Some adjustments may be made to the high school students’ schedule, but officials are working to limit the amount of changes made.
While none of the options the school had to consider are ideal fixes, D’Andrea said officials chose the high school because they sought to limit any breaks in curriculum, and keep “the school together as much as possible.”
In the coming weeks, D’Andrea said he will invite parents and students to visit the school and see where they will be situated.
According to D’Andrea, once the remediation contractor assesses the lead at the Tisbury School, officials will be able to determine how much money to request from the town.
“It would be great if we had the money available to do this work right now, but right now we are not sure what the cost will be,” D’Andrea said.
Tisbury has wrestled with the need for a new school or a renovation for the better part of three years. In April 2018, voters rejected spending $46.6 million — which included $14.6 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority — on a new school building by 21 votes at the polls.
Despite a rejection at the polls, issues with the school persist. A recent air quality analysis by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) showed serious deficiencies at the school caused by leaking windows. Along with the mold and asbestos, there are also problems with mold.
Another report on the school’s accessibility also showed significant problems with restrooms, stairs, handrails, and doors that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The site visit was done on May 6, 2019, and the report is 544 pages. It shows an estimated $1.25 million in repairs that are needed just to bring the school into compliance.
The school is hoping to bypass the bid process for lead remediation due to the urgency of the situation.
“While I would normally seek stakeholder input, this situation requires that I act quickly in the best interest of our students,” D’Andrea wrote. “The health and wellness of our students at the Tisbury school is a priority.”
“The hope is that it [remediation] will be completed within two months,” the Tisbury School Parent Teacher Organization website states.
In response to questions from parents regarding child care during the week that school will be delayed, school officials wrote on the website that the school is contacting the YMCA to discuss options.
The website also states that kids will potentially need to stay in school a week longer at the end of the school year “or possibly we may be able to have the additional week embedded somehow into the regular school year.
Tisbury School nurse Catherine Coogan will be at the Camp Jabberwocky campus to attend the kindergarten through grade four students. Parents have also requested an additional nurse be hired to take care of Tisbury students at the high school since the high school is at full capacity.
Campus orientations will be held before the start of the school year, according to the website.
The next meeting of the Tisbury school committee will be held on August 26, at a time yet to be determined.