D’Andrea pitches high school plan B

Years in the making, a fluid punch list was offered as alternate fodder for a feasibility study

Superintendent of schools Matt D'Andrea, shown here at a 2019 meeting, has been busy informing parents of new cases of COVID-19 involving students. - Rich Saltzberg


Updated Nov. 12

Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea went before Chilmark selectmen with an alternate idea for resuscitating the Vineyard’s decaying high school. D’Andrea suggested using a longstanding capital needs assessment, sort of an internal punch list of projects big and small, and either generating a less ambitious feasibility study and floating the idea to voters at Island town meetings, or folding a select group of punch list items into the high school budget. He said the district is looking for a way forward with the high school that provides options. 

D’Andrea said high school Principal Sara Dingledy has embarked on drafting a vision for the school, and the district has applied for funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), and expects to hear back this month. 

“If we are accepted into MSBA and we have Sara’s vision, I think it would be wise of us to keep going forward and again try to get that feasibility study out to the towns and voted and approved, to move forward with a building renovation,” D’Andrea said. “If we are accepted into MSBA, it is a significant amount of money — roughly 40 percent.”

D’Andrea said the capital needs assessment is a constantly changing document that identifies minor remodeling costs and major remodeling costs. One hefty item he pointed to was the high school HVAC, which is estimated to be a $4 million job to replace.  

In addition to potentially sending a punch list out to voters with a feasibility study for big-ticket items, D’Andrea said it was possible to fold the costs into the fiscal budget. 

“If we are unable to move forward with a feasibility study, and a renovation project, this is the route we’re going to have to go,” he said. 

“Do we have the same issues with this project as we do with a potential new school?” selectman Bill Rossi asked. “Do we need all six towns to agree on all these capital projects?” 

“If we put it into the budget, we need four out of six towns,” D’Andrea said. “If we put it out in separate warrant articles, we need all six towns.” 

Rossi said he anticipated a lot of political work for the latter option. 

“I think this is terrific,” selectman Jim Malkin said of the capital needs assessment. “This is just what we’re looking for — what do we need to do on the current building, what’s the timeline, what are the priorities? That’s helpful.” 

“I really appreciate this. This clears a lot up for me.” Rossi said. 

“We have six school buildings on the Island,” finance committee chairman Rob Hannemann said. “That’s probably close to $400 million worth of real estate and facilities in the schools. And yet we don’t have an engineering department or a facilities department that is safeguarding all of that investment.”

Hannemann speculated such a position “would save far more money that it costs to have them onboard.”

“It had not been discussed yet,” D’Andrea, “but yes, we’re in the budget process, so that conversation can happen. I think it should happen. And I agree with you. You look at what happened with Tisbury. We don’t want this to happen again. So having someone who knows buildings and know what needs to be done, will be helpful to that end.”

Robert Lionette, Chilmark’s school committee representative, said past attempts revealed the down-Island towns, which own their own buildings, weren’t interested.

He went on to say, “The feasibility study is still dubious in terms of its passing because of the assessment formula. And all but one town that I know of has weighed in one way or the other strongly about this.” 

Finance committee member Viki Divoll concurred. “Our hand is going to be forced very soon,” she said, “because recent history tells us that Oak Bluffs will not approve any of those items in the current formula, certainly not the large ones.”

Malkin made it clear he was still vehemently opposed to wholesale changes to the school funding formula.

The discussion wound down with enthusiasm from the board, but without a vote.

In other business, selectmen voted 2-0 to open bay scallop season throughout Menemsha Pond on the first Monday in December. The board also voted 2-0 to open Tisbury Great Pond to oystering on Nov. 18 with a limit of 800 oysters per commercial harvester per day. 

Chairman Warren Doty was absent from the meeting. 

Updated to correct the body of water to be opened for bay scallop season.