Tisbury School to delay start of school, lead contamination confirmed

Students to be relocated.

There will be a delay to the start of school for Tisbury School students following positive lead testing. — Gabrielle Mannino

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.



  1. Why do other island towns have to always bail Tisbury out of its self-inflicted problems? The town needs to suffer the consequences of its poor planning and decision making. I don’t want my high schooler further cramped for months by students who shouldn’t be in the high school. Is Tisbury reimbursing the HS for costs, including rent, or is this another freebie for Tizbury?

    • Because they had Tristan Israel for 2 and one half decades and nothing ever got done there. Now that he’s gone things seem to be getting addressed and not swept away.

    • Right now we need to think of the children, all the children. You may not live in Tisbury but we all live on the island. Sometimes we all have to chip in and help each other when disaster strikes.

  2. Companies that test for this must have a huge back log. Took all summer. The wheels of government turn slowly.

  3. So many questions. Why did this come down to the final two weeks of summer? Common sense tells us that this old school would test positive for lead paint. Why weren’t these tests done sooner, perhaps even years ago? Why weren’t these tests, at the very least, done prior to the vote on the new school? Why has the needed maintenance on this building been ignored for years? Why did the town wait for state mandated testing before doing this? Who dropped the ball on the kids of Tisbury School? This is a terrible situation for the town to be in. Will anyone in town accept responsibility for the mess we are in?

    • Ana– you might be on to something– many of Tisbury’s voters likely went to that school– the lead has been there for a long time…..how else to explain the “no” vote ?
      They say the Roman empire descended into disarray after they built lead lined aqueducts to carry their drinking water..

  4. Almost all the conversations I have with people who live in the smarter towns comes around to or BOS of Vineyard Haven, I feel like I am in europe and answering the question how it is you have the president you do. I explain that no one with qualifications ever runs unless they have a financial stake that they are looking out for or other benefits given to the members of our famed BOS.

  5. This test should have been ordered as soon as the school vote failed last year. We can probably thank Tristan for that tiny lapse.
    Those managing the school maintenance are nothing short of incompetent. And the principal has been nothing short of complacent, otherwise we might have heard a whisper about this sometime prior to August.
    $1.2 mill is a lot less than $42 mil.

  6. Again, it just apears that D’Andrea is asleep at the wheel, as he continues to stand by and allow our schools to languish with poor leadership and poor facilities. How did he get a six year contract, $170K., a vehicle and a cellphone deal? Maybe we need a leader with skills to push our educational community forward, not backwards… he’s about as good as the principal at MVRHS……(Dingledy)….

  7. Seems like this would have been a great opportunity to test regionalizing in our schools. There is precedent for combining JR/SR students then have two K-6 schools. There has to be the capacity for that among the other existing schools. Why subject 5th graders to a more mature environment than necessary? Are people afraid that it would actually work?

  8. As long as I can remember there has been discussion and planning as “what to do about the Tisbury school?”. After years of planning the town was asked to vote on a new school and they voted it down. This is on the voters in Tisbury. Maybe make it easier, not harder, for the school board to replace the school. It should now be a no brainer, build a new school, ASAP.

Comments are closed.