A difficult no vote


No one questions the need for a better learning environment for the students of Tisbury. Let’s make that clear from the outset.

We understand the problems with lead and asbestos in the school building. We’ve walked across the buckling wood floors. We’ve seen the air ventilation system that appears to be more duct tape than ductwork. We’ve passed through the front entrance — grand, but without proper access for those with disabilities. We’ve endured town meetings in the cramped and dark gymnasium.

The school building is a wounded warrior, suffering from years of delayed maintenance, and no amount of bandages will fix what ails it. It needs an overhaul.

With our strong support for public education, it pains us to say that the $55 million renovation and addition proposed for the Tisbury School is not the right decision for the community. 

When voters rejected by 21 votes the proposed school project for new construction in 2018, we hoped town leaders would take a deep breath and consider alternatives — and not see renovation of and addition to the existing Tisbury School building as the inevitable path. It took a while for the select board and school leaders to come together, with the wounds of 2018 still raw.

Back in 2017, the town had a real alternative in play, to build a new school on land known as the Manter well site, which would have been in the same price range as a new school on Spring Street, but would have given the town an opportunity to repurpose the Tisbury School building — perhaps as much-needed housing.

A pause now to seek alternatives could restart that conversation as well. We repeat what we said then: By making the bold move to have a new school built at the Manter well site, the town could find a long-term solution that would provide room to grow, and room for much-needed playing fields as well. It would put that valuable town resource in an area that would not exacerbate traffic in a residential neighborhood. And the town would avoid the headaches that almost always accompany a project that includes renovation of an existing building. Factor in the age of the Tisbury School, and the town is just asking for problems that could end up driving up the cost of the project.

During the current building committee process, we’ve asked a lot of questions about lead, about asbestos, and about radon. We’ve asked why the school’s sub-basement, the boiler room, was not tested for the presence of radon, and have never gotten a satisfactory answer. Radon levels are generally higher in basements. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., according to the EPA. If we’re spending $55 million to renovate a school without factoring in the full scope of the radon situation, the project is flawed from the start. 

The financial burden that any school project puts on the community for the next 30 years should not be downplayed. The current plan up for vote would cost taxpayers 10 percent more for 30 years. That means that the owner of a residential property valued at $682,300 — Tisbury’s median — would pay an additional $635 in property taxes per year for the Tisbury School renovation and addition project.

We understand that construction won’t get any cheaper. But that’s not a reason to proceed with this project. 

The building committee has worked hard, and we always appreciate the efforts of volunteers, but we believe it’s in the town’s best interests for voters at the June 13 town meeting and subsequently at the ballot box on June 22 to reject the plan presented. 

The sky will not fall if this school project doesn’t pass. Let’s back up, and find some alternatives to consider in our quest to find a healthy place for children to learn, a project our town can support, and afford.


  1. So, the MV Times has instituted a policy requiring individuals to give their first and last names to comment or write a letter to the editor. Yet, the author of this opinion does not have the intestinal fortitude to put their name on it. Does this represent the opinion of all who are currently employed at the MVtimes? Could this be the opinion of the paper’s owner, a Tisbury taxpayer? I have a newfound respect for the group that torpedoed the first vote. At least they had the guts to put names to their words.

  2. I thought I was prepared for being frustrated once again with the flood of misinformation or uninformed views around the Tisbury School Project Special Town Meeting this Sunday June 13th or the ballot voting on June 17th and and June 22nd but this editorial left me speechless. The lack of due diligence and amount of misinformation that could have been easily obtained from the building committee is appalling. I can only hope that the Tisbury voters do a better job in thoroughly examining the information around this project.

    With one child at the Tisbury school and another who will start in the Fall of 2022 I have stayed connected to the vast amount of information shared on the Tisbury School Building Website and via various Zoom Meetings and Presentations. The 111 page existing conditions reports as well as presentations from the architect Chris Blessing clearly states that there has been thorough investigation into lead and asbestos via drill holes. In fact, Tappe and the project manager have worked with environmental and mechanical engineers throughout the project and they are referenced throughout the existing conditions report (https://tisbury-school-project.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tisbury-Existing-Conditions-Report-R1.pdf). As far as radon this will be tested for in the design development phase with open holes as is recommended by professionals in the field, which whoever wrote this editorial is clearly not. If there is a worst case scenario remediation is required the cost is not a huge impediment to this project and would be done at that time.

    As far as the Manter Site, in the last round this site was ruled out because “…Manter Well site were not selected as a result of concerns from the TSBC and the overall community about the environmental impact, the loss of the school campus as a central location within the community, and an estimated higher cost.”(https://tisbury-school-project.com/faqs-old/). Those concerns have not changed and nothing in this editorial explains them away. Ironically the anonymous author of this piece ends with “The sky will not fall if this school project doesn’t pass. Let’s back up, and find some alternatives to consider in our quest to find a healthy place for children to learn, a project our town can support, and afford.” The sky may not fall but anyone familiar with the history of the school knows that lead and asbestos has and will continue to fall from the ceiling of the building. Although temporarily encapsulated, that temporary fix will continue to cause problems from the inevitable water damage since the building envelope is not secure due to leaking windows and bricks.

    As far as cost, our finance committee and finance director have supported the fiscal responsibility of this project. Let us be clear, this project will only go up in cost. By not supporting this current vote we also risk the unpredictable costs of a rapidly deteriorating building. I can only hope this time Tisbury voters think long and hard about who they are listening to. Apparently the MV Times is not a reliable source. I hope whoever writes this has the courage and integrity to retract and correct the vast misinformation in this piece.

    • Thank you, Anna Cotton, for articulating crucial corrections to misinformation in the MVTimes editorial. The editorial’s assertion that the building committee was hiding and avoiding radon info upset me. And it puzzled me because the committee was so conscientious and skillful at communicating details about the project. I could not imagine why any of the committee members would hide information. So I asked the radon question at an informational session presented by the building committee. The answer and explanation was as Ms Cotton wrote in her letter. I am disappointed that the MVTimes’ did not print that important info. It was easily available for the asking. With other issues, such as lead contamination at lighthouses, MVTImes has uncovered and given us important info. I hope the Times reporting and editorials will return to a higher level.

  3. MV Times, put an author to this Editorial. If one is to write an Editorial, they need to take responsibility for their words.

    • Since Doug Cabral left, I always assumed these unsigned editorials came from owner/publisher Peter Oberfest. I could be wrong, though.

  4. The voters turned down a much less expensive option, knowing that the rebuild would cost far more. How would their fondness for the neglected old building be served by giving it up, along with the in-town campus? Please explain.

  5. Even a casual reader of newspapers knows that editorials are not signed but represent the views of the newspaper, often an editorial board, or an editor, with the approval of the publisher.
    The outrage is misdirected. Those clamoring for the identity of the author of this editorial do so to intimidate and shame an individual.
    I support a new school, but I also see it within the context of all the town’s costly capital needs, including a new town hall to be built on the residential lot that will be the site of the school trailers for two years. Building on a new location would mean no disruptions, and the old school could then be repurposed to include a new town hall and apartments.

  6. More misdirection. Unless building a palace, a new town hall on the temporary school site should cost the town less than fixing the existing school to repurpose it as a town hall and housing. Not one of the existing problems go away in the the 1929 building. It would still be a gut job, unless you want to tell workers/residents that they have to live with lead paint, asbestos, leaks, failed windows and low energy efficiency. It would need to be a public/private partnership to put housing in there and you still have the escalating costs to build a school elsewhere in future years with likely escalating interest rates. Somehow the times has checked the permitting process for the Manter well site and knows this is even feasible, not to mention that there is no sewer up there or sidewalks, so tack on the cost of infrastructure improvements. When you build all the affordable housing in the existing Tisbury school will the sewer plant be able to handle all the new flow on top of the relocated school. And this would likely be 2 DRI projects with the MVC. My belief is this would result in costing taxpayers more than what is proposed.

Comments are closed.