Tisbury School students could be reunited soon, after almost four months apart.
After lead paint was discovered in August in the original wing of the Tisbury School, built in 1928, students in grades K-4 and 5-8 were separated. Younger students were relocated to the 1993 wing of the building, where no lead paint was used, and older students were welcomed by the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
In October, plans to reunite the two groups of kids were unveiled, and the school began to work toward total remediation of any lead or toxic substances in the school. A lead remediation consultant was hired by the school to determine the scope of the issue, and nearly $2 million was set aside by voters at a special town meeting, though not all of it was for remediation.
The older wing of the school was sealed off to prevent further exposure while work was being done.
A letter from Superintendent Matt D’Andrea to parents and faculty laid out the timeline of the remediation project, stating that the work would take place in November and December, with the goal of reuniting students in January.
Tentatively, the students are slated to return to the Tisbury School from MVRHS after their holiday break on Jan. 6.
Tisbury School Principal John Custer said it “feels good” to have gotten to this point, where he and many others who have worked hard to keep the project on schedule “can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Other than some fine-tuning over the winter break, Custer said, everything is set up in anticipation of the return of the kids.
According to Custer, the process of making the school safe for students has been arduous, but he said it feels gratifying to be able to welcome the students back and have the entire school reunited.
“It was a very challenging task before us, but I had confidence in the people behind this process all along, since day one,” Custer said. “The kids are so adaptable and resilient, but it was a tremendous team effort, and there is a long list of people to thank.”
Although Custer said, “No one wanted this,” and the situation was disappointing and embarrassing, he asked folks to try and put things in perspective. “Other school communities have suffered far worse than this, but it was a challenge that I had no doubt we could overcome,” Custer said.
On Thursday, students were together again at the Tisbury School as they celebrated their annual holiday sing-along — an event that Custer said was a small taste of normalcy after a hectic and uncertain period.
“Only twice were we able to get all the students in kindergarten through eighth grade together since this happened,” Custer said. “It’s going to be the best feeling seeing all the students together at last. It’s been very hard for me to know that half the school is at another campus.”