West Tisbury School opts into Green Communities

School will be able to apply for grant funds, but must reduce energy consumption through sustainable initiatives.

The West Tisbury School will now be included in the list of buildings and entities in town that can apply for and receive Green Communities grant funds, provided the school works toward reducing its energy consumption.

The West Tisbury School will now be included in the list of buildings and entities in town that can apply for and receive Green Communities grant funds, provided the school works toward reducing its energy consumption.

At an Up-Island Regional School District committee meeting Monday, officials voted to add the West Tisbury School to the list of buildings in the town designated under the Green Communities designation.

“In doing that, you are making a commitment to reduce the energy use at the school by at least 20 percent within a five-year period,” Kate Warner, chair of the West Tisbury Energy Committee, said.

Warner noted that there are many opportunities at the West Tisbury School to increase efficiency and reduce energy consumption, since the school still has several necessary upgrading and improvement projects that could benefit from green technology.

Additionally, Warner said the school could potentially lower overall operating costs through the implementation of energy-efficient technologies. “What you get in return potentially is lower operating costs, and you also get the ability to access Green Communities funds,” she said.

The town of West Tisbury is applying for the next round of Green Communities money in the fall, according to Warner, and the state anticipates that the school will be the primary focus for their funding requests. 

School officials approved two separate documents at their meeting: The first was a letter of approval for the school to be designated as a Green Communities building, and the second was an alteration to the vehicle policy, stating that the next vehicle purchase the school makes will meet efficiency guidelines set by the state program.

The existing lunch van at the school exceeds the gross vehicle weight exemption, so it does not have to meet the policy in terms of energy use.

Mark Friedman, business manager for Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, wondered if the commitment to reduce energy consumption over five years was a stringent requirement, and if there would be a penalty for not meeting the established goal.

Warner said there is no penalty for not reaching the energy goals, but noted that all fuel bills related to the school and the lunch van must be sent to the town accountant. She said the accountant will enter that information into the Massachusetts Energy Insight Database, which tracks community progress in energy use, and helps them understand their energy consumption level.

“All those buildings and vehicles are being tracked. That’s how we show how we are doing,” Warner said.

Friedman also asked whether the school and the town would be required to match any grant funds provided by the Green Communities Division.

Warner said there is often a matching portion required, but noted that the Cape Light Compact is also offering money for improvements to the school.

In the future, whenever the school is looking at doing a renovation to any structures or systems, Warner suggested seizing the opportunity to “chip away” at the energy reduction goal of the designation.

She cited the 13,000-square-foot flat roof of the school, which is slated to be done this summer: 

“Looking at whether greater amounts of insulation can be put under that membrane, that would be something you are already asking the town to pay for — that’s kind of a win-win for you,” Warner said.

In order to make the most informed and financially efficient decision, Warner suggested coming up with a plan for the school, laying out what projects need to be taken care of, and where Green Communities support could come in handy.

In other business, school officials approved the continuing participation of up-Island schools in the school choice program, which allows parents to send their children to schools in communities or districts other than the locality in which they reside.

“It’s great because it provides students across the Island with some opportunity to perhaps attend school in a different district that better suits his or her needs,” Superintendent Matt D’Andrea said.

Committee member Skipper Manter said he is “all in favor of school choice,” but said he thinks it puts an extra burden on schools because of the high number of school choice students they take in. “I would be in favor of limiting the number of school choice students,” Manter said.

Committee member Kate DeVane said she would rather leave the decision on the number of students allowed to participate in school choice to the respective principals of each school. “They should be able to accept school choice at their discretion,” DeVane said.

The committee also approved the third reading of the remote learning attendance policy, which states that any student who started the 2021 academic year attending an up-Island school be allowed to remain in the district remote cohort (if deemed necessary by the principals) until the end of the academic year.