High school begins surveillance testing program

MVRHS approves over $23 million FY22 operating budget.

The Mirimus saliva tests consist of a take-home kit that staff and students pick up and then drop off to be analyzed by the lab. Staff will be tested first, then the kits will be distributed to the general student population.

During a meeting Monday, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee members received an update on the surveillance testing program rollout, which is currently engaged in testing as many school staff as possible by the end of this week.

According to Superintendent Matt D’Andrea, the asymptomatic tests, provided by Mirimus Clinical Labs, are take-home test kits that require a small amount of saliva to be placed in a test tube, then collected en masse to be sent away for analysis.

Down-Island school staff began picking up their test kits on Monday, and up-Island staff received theirs on Tuesday.

On Wednesday and Thursday, staff will return their test kits, and the school will then ship them to Mirimus. Results will be available by Saturday, according to D’Andrea.

About 650 tests will be distributed this week, and next week, the school will distribute around 900 tests to both staff and students, using a similar distribution and collection process. “There certainly will be challenges as we go through this process, but I am confident we can work them out,” D’Andrea said.

He stressed the need for volunteers who can collect the test kits once they are returned by staff and students. 

Additionally, the BinaxNOW symptomatic testing provided by Abbott Laboratories through a state-funded program is available for school nurses, D’Andrea said.

This rapid testing provides an option for nurses who need near-immediate results (tests yield results in 15 minutes or less), when a student or staff member comes into the office and is exhibiting COVID symptoms. D’Andrea noted that student athletes will be tested every week because they will be traveling off-Island to compete.


High school certifies FY22 budget

The MVRHS committee approved an approximately $23.5 million FY22 operating budget and around $20 million in assessed expenses.

The FY22 budget represents a 3.51 percent increase from the prior fiscal year, or $798,828 in additional expenditures.

According to business administrator Mark Friedman, there have been only two adjustments to the budget since the public hearing on Dec. 22. 

He said school budget planners consolidated the COVID contingency line with the regular contingency line for FY22, but that was just a housekeeping measure, and will not create any change in the expense line or assessments.

High school business administrator Mark Friedman leads school officials through the FY22 budget.

The second change to the budget is in the warrant article that requests towns to fund $261,546 for new electric buses. Right before Christmas, Friedman said the school received an updated quote from Anderson Bus Co. for the electric buses commissioned by the high school.

The figure in the finalized warrant article reflects the slight increase in cost, Friedman explained.

Another three warrant articles will be on the table for town meetings in Island municipalities, including $656,552 for updated tech infrastructure, $302,501 for additional other post-employment benefit (OPEB) contributions, and $30,000 to reshingle the superintendent’s office. 

Friedman noted the HVAC feasibility analysis under budgetary expenses, which will allow an expert engineering firm to assess the existing system needs in the high school building, and make recommendations for preferred options.

He added that the school has been applying to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for “at least the last five years,” and has not yet heard back from the authority after submitting applications last spring. 

The MSBA provides need-based grant assistance to schools for “shovel-ready” capital projects, such as systems renovations and upgrades.

The school will use the statutory formula to determine budgetary assessments, and capital warrant articles will be assessed based on the regional formula. The OPEB contributions that will be requested from Island towns will be based on the pupil count (the regional formula) of each individual school district.


School sports are back in action

School athletic directors, coaches, trainers, and student athletes are working hard to find ways to enjoy playing sports, while also adhering to the guidelines laid out by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA). Currently, MVRHS athletic director Mark McCarthy said, there are 167 student athletes registered to participate in sports such as basketball, hockey, swimming, and indoor track.

The high school was slated to compete in a number of games with off-Island schools in the upcoming weeks, but some of those schools have had to switch to entirely remote learning after experiencing COVID upticks. 

“There are five schools that have been pushed to remote learning, which has delayed their ability to start playing games,” McCarthy said. “Some of those schools do affect our schedule.”

He said the high school is scheduled to start playing games next week, although that itinerary will shift depending on which off-Island schools have been forced to close.

According to McCarthy, the goal of Massachusetts schools is to play all the league games, then have a tournament at the end of the season so all the student athletes can play for a league championship.