Reunited, and it feels so good

Tisbury School student body is made whole once more.

Tisbury School students are together again under one roof after almost four months apart. After lead paint was discovered in August in the original wing of the Tisbury School, built in 1929, 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, where they took over a wing of that school.

During an October town meeting, Tisbury voters approved $1.5 million in emergency funds to remediate the lead at the school, and provide adequate learning spaces for students. At that point in time, voters and town officials believed that temporary portable classrooms would have to be stationed outside the Tisbury School, and factored that anticipated expense into the overall allotment.

But the HVAC contract was for only $49,000, and the final cost for lead and asbestos abatement was $262,345, according to an email from town administrator Jay Grande. The money that remains of the original $1.5 million will need to be voted on at town meeting to be returned to the town’s stabilization fund, he wrote. There are additional expenses related to hiring the owner’s project manager, which Grande estimated to be around $20,000.

At the Tisbury School Monday, a sense of pride and togetherness could be felt in halls and classrooms, as students and teachers rejoiced at being back in their familiar milieu. 

During afternoon dismissal, parents waited eagerly to hear about their kids’ first day as a complete student body. 

Before heading to the bus, seventh grader Avery Mulvey said she is happy to be back at her old stomping grounds, and looks forward to settling into her new classrooms.

“It’s a nice feeling. It’s like we are in our own territory, you know? Back in our natural habitat,” Avery said. 

When asked about her experience at the high school, Avery said she had fun, but is looking forward to some familiar surroundings. “I think one thing that is nice is knowing your way around. After a while we got to learn the high school, but being back here feels right,” Avery said.

Another student, sixth grader Karla Robadel, said she is happy to get back out on the playground and “be kiddish again.” “It feels like we can focus on being kids again, and just having fun and learning,” Karla said. 

Karla said many students with siblings who haven’t gotten to see each other during the school day are being reunited. “I like seeing my sister during school; she’s 7 years old. I definitely missed her,” Karla said. “It feels great to be together again.”

Tisbury School Principal John Custer said the positive energy on campus was overwhelming, and that the momentous occasion was highly anticipated by students, staff, and parents. “This is something we have been looking forward to since early September. I don’t really know how to capture the feeling in words,” Custer said. “It was pure joy.”

Aside from the school feeling “complete” again, Custer said, the sense of normalcy has already returned, and the entire community will soon be back to business as usual.

“It feels right, it feels normal, it feels amazing,” Custer said. “Things are just falling right back into place. No hang-ups, no surprises, everything went incredibly smoothly.”

According to Custer, teachers took smiling students on a tour of the building to help them readjust and get settled back in, but it didn’t take much for the kids to feel right at home.

“There was no nervousness or difficulty getting the kids back into their pre-established routines; they just looked excited,” Custer said.

And the dedicated Tisbury teachers haven’t missed a beat in reconnecting with students and parents, and ramping up their curriculum after getting back onto familiar ground, Custer said.

“The teachers really take the lead on making the kids feel welcome and comfortable. They also are wonderful at communicating with parents and keeping them in the loop on every step they take,” Custer said. “They know what works best for kids and families.”

Custer thanked the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School staff for its ongoing support, and for accommodating Tisbury students during a difficult time.

“It’s not like this was just for a week, it was months that the high school was kind and generous enough to accomodate our kids,” Custer said. “I can’t thank them enough for all they did and continue to do.”

He also gave a shout-out to the folks at the Tisbury Emergency Services Building for their support and compassion in letting students dine in their space.

“They [emergency personnel] were so kind to the kids. Even with short notice, they gave them a space to eat lunch, which is so important,” Custer said. He said emergency personnel got used to having the kids in the building during lunch, and will miss having them there.

“It took so much work from so many to accomplish this task, but the kids adapted incredibly well, and now we are together again — all of us,” Custer said. 

Tisbury School Assistant Principal Melissa Ogden said the energy on Monday felt similar to the first day of school.

“Kids are just hugging and playing. My favorite thing is seeing the younger and older kids get back together. Some of them have formed friendships through sports, and many of them are in clubs together, or are siblings,” Ogden said. 

And Ogden said it will only get better from here, as the Tisbury School community is made whole once more.

“We never had any doubts we would make it to this point, but nevertheless it is incredibly gratifying to be here,” Ogden said.