Tisbury moves forward with temporary school plans

Town will pay $11,750 to retain architect for temporary space; building committee approves letter of recommendation on the overall project.

The Tisbury School Building Committee has sent an endorsement letter for the Tisbury School renovation and addition project to the select board and school committee.

The Tisbury select board and school committees approved spending $11,750 to retain Tappé Architects, plus any additional engineering services, to house temporary classrooms at 55 West William St. 

By approving those funds, town administrator Jay Grande can work out a contract with Tappé. Voters at a June 13 special town meeting devoted solely to the school project will be asked to fund a $55 million Proposition 2½ debt exclusion for a renovation and addition project for the school. The temporary classrooms will be needed for two years should that project be approved. Regardless of that vote, there appears to be consensus that the temporary classrooms will be needed to deal with the ongoing pandemic and the environmental issues at Tisbury School. The oldest part of the building has been plagued by lead contamination, some of it remediated as the 2019–20 school year started.

Grande described a September timeframe for the temporary classrooms as “ambitious,” but said every effort will be made to get the portable classrooms to the Island and ready for students as soon as possible. If the overall renovation project is approved, the hope is to begin construction in January 2022. “The important thing is to get it out of the starting gate and get it moving forward,” he said.

Tisbury School Principal John Custer said an early mockup of the site didn’t show enough space for all of the elementary school’s programs. He said he hoped that important detail would be rectified, noting that it would be home for the students for at least two years.

Select board chair Jim Rogers said he’s cognizant of the educational programming needs. “No matter what we do, I’m not sure we’re going to be able to meet all the space requirements,” he said.


Letter of support

Also at Tuesday’s joint meeting, Rogers read a letter from the school building committee into the record. 

That letter was approved unanimously by the building committee Thursday night. The letter endorses schematic designs and a site plan executed by Tappé Architects for the $53 million to $55 million project. Also endorsed was $1.6 million for solar panels that may or may not be covered by a proposed bond ceiling of $55 million. 

“After 20 months of study, meetings, consults, and design work, the Tisbury School Building Committee unanimously submits the following recommendations to the select board, the school committee, and the voters of Tisbury for a renovation/addition to the Tisbury School,” the letter states.

The endorsement letter acknowledges that votes taken by the committee previously on the schematic designs and the site plan were approved by “supermajority.” In both instances the vote was 8-1, with Rachel Orr the dissenting vote. Orr told The Times that her past stance reflected plans that hadn’t received complete processes, or hadn’t received proper public assessment at the times the votes were taken. She didn’t comment on the recent endorsement vote, but did say of the overall project, “I have no idea if this is going to pass or not. Certainly if it passes, I want it to be as good as it can be.” 

The letter acknowledges the schematic designs aren’t yet set in stone. 

“The TSBC acknowledges the above-mentioned plans are ‘schematic designs,’ and will undergo some changes during the design development phase, and encourages continued participation in the refinement of said plans, including continuing value management and budget analysis seeking responsible cost savings to the town,” the letter states. “The TSBC recognizes and accepts the budgets submitted by Tappé Architects and Daedalus Projects in the amount of $53,185,500* at the joint meeting of Oct. 20, 2020, as well as the select board’s proposal to bond the renovation/addition project for $55,000,000.” The footnote to the figure reads, “* The $53,185,500 does not include the cost of solar panels.”

The letter also recommends a construction manager at risk (CMR) for the project. 

As The Times previously reported, a construction manager at risk is a type of managerial construction agent who assumes construction responsibility on behalf of the owner, and allows a contractor to be interviewed and selected for a set contract price. The other approach would be a design bid build project, which requires taking the lowest bidder for the project, something officials have said could be more risky for an Island project.

The Tisbury School Building Committee letter goes on to recommend “the select board, in cooperation with Tappé Architects and Daedalus Projects, begin the process of employing the services of a CMR firm that would be brought under contract pending a vote to fund the renovation/addition project.”

In italics, the letter states the CMR would help “facilitate an immediate start of the project with the construction manager assisting with the temporary school, and be ready for demolition on or about Jan. 1, 2022.”

Chapdelaine told The Times $2.5 million for temporary school facilities are expected to come from the $53 million estimated for the project, as opposed to the extra $2 million that could be had from the select board’s $55 million estimated bond ceiling. 

The letter also recommends keeping Tappé on the job, as well as Daedalus Projects as owner’s project manager. 

Chapdelaine said among other positives, “at the end of the day, the project meets the site needs assessment and the education plan.” Chapdelaine said the Tisbury School is expected to enroll 100 more students by 2030, and the project has been tailored to meet that need. With the strictures the pandemic places on everyday life, Chapdelaine said, “the coffee shop conversation, the lunch counter conversation, [and] the Cronig’s conversation” that would normally improve townspeople’s grasp of the project aren’t available. Chapdelaine said the need for effective community dissemination of project details and the reasoning for them is something he is mindful of.