Students in kindergarten through fourth grade returned to a partially quarantined Tisbury School Monday morning.
School officials delayed the start of school for one week after lead tests last month showed classrooms with levels above what OSHA considers healthy. The testing came after a Department of Public Health evaluation that showed air quality issues with the aging building, and pointed to potential problems with lead and asbestos.
The 155 K-4 students gathered in classrooms in the 1993 portion of the building. The other 140 5-8 grade students loaded themselves on buses for classes at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
Hallways leading into the older part of the Tisbury School that tested positive for lead were sectioned off with wood paneling and plastic sheeting on floors one, two, and three.
While much of their school was boarded up, students filed into classrooms to begin their school year. The front of the school is open, with the administration and nurse’s office in their same places. Other rooms on the first floor hallway will be used as English language learner and special education classrooms. Students will eat their lunch across the street at the town’s Emergency Services Facility.
Outside among students, Principal John Custer said he felt better than he had in the past three weeks. “Seeing the kids — that’s the cure,” he said. “We needed this.”
Classes were also set up for students at the little White House building. Also outside was a portable restroom unit with two bathrooms. While meeting code, Custer said he wanted extra bathrooms for staff and students.
Custer added that he was nervous, but the excitement of seeing students back at school put a smile on his face. “I feel better already having kids here,” he said.
While students were given some normalcy as they returned to classes, school administration and school committee members are focused on hiring an owner’s property manager (OPM) to help design and build a temporary school.
Selectmen and the school committee have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 5 pm to talk about a host of issues surrounding the school, including hiring an OPM.
At MVRHS, students housed in sequestered wing
Tisbury School students in grades 5 through 8 began their stay at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Monday morning.
As kids streamed off the school buses and in through the career and technical education (CTE) doors on the side of the building, some looked nervous and excited, while others seemed hardly fazed by the change.
The bell rang at 8:15 am, just as it did at the Tisbury School last year and the year before. Some high school stragglers rushed with their backpacks to their classrooms, but all the Tisbury kids were safely situated in their classes by the time the ball rang.
In the “200 wing” of the school, where high school algebra and geometry teachers are normally located, Tisbury teachers placed signs above their doors with their names painted in various colors and styles.
The 200 wing was sectioned off by teachers, who stood by to make sure everyone got to their classes and could use the bathroom.
Both the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms are locked and restricted from general use, and are conveniently located next to the 200 wing, allowing teachers to escort students directly to them without straying from the sequestered area.
With seven classrooms in total, kids have a staggered schedule from MVRHS students, and will rotate classrooms throughout the day.
Tisbury students were also assigned lockers with combination locks on them — a precaution Tisbury School Assistant Principal Melissa Ogden said is necessary when integrating younger kids with older kids.
The culinary arts dining room in the high school was set up to mimic the orientation of the Tisbury school lunchroom, which Ogden said should help kids adjust to a new environment.
In the triangular room adjacent to the 200 wing where the CTE office is located, Tisbury
School Nurse Catherine Coogan worked on the final touches for her temporary workspace.
She pointed past a curtain at the middle of the room. “That’s where guidance will be,” Coogan said.
“Everything I need is right here, besides a sink. But I can just go across the hall and use the sink in one of the bathrooms,” Coogan said. “It’s not a whole ton of space, but it’s really all I need.”
School Resource Officer Jillian Sedlier strolled the halls just like any other day at the school, but Maj. Sterling Bishop of the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office stood and looked down the 200 hallway as a group of Tisbury students filtered from one classroom to another.
Bishop was there partly to look after the kids and to ensure a smooth transition, but he said he was also there as a dedicated father. “My daughter is a sixth grader at the Tisbury School, so I am partly here to see how she does and how the whole process flows,” Bishop said.
Based on the morning so far, Bishop said he is confident in the high school’s ability to take care of the children and run a tight ship. “My only concern was that there would be interactions between the high school kids and the Tisbury kids, but everything seems to be going great — it looks like it’s working,” Bishop said.
He explained how the confined learning space is beneficial to keeping track of students and making sure there are no interruptions to high school students’ day-to-day schedules.
MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy said she is pleased with how the young students are transitioning into their new environment, and looks forward to finding ways to refine the process as kids continue to settle in.
“It seems pretty seamless right now. Everything is going smoothly,” Dingledy said. “We will see how everything goes in the next few days.”