MVRHS accepted into MSBA eligibility period

Towns must illustrate their willingness to come together for feasibility study. 

The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School has arrived at an important next step in receiving state funding for a major capital building project. — Lucas Thors

Updated March 4

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) has been invited into the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) eligibility period — a significant step to receive funding for a school building project.

On March 2, the news came to Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools Superintendent Matt D’Andrea in a letter from MSBA executive director John K. McCarthy. According to the letter, the 270-day eligibility period lays out the necessary course of action the high school must take to move through the grant approval process. This first phase also provides a definitive schedule for completion of preliminary requirements that will assist with the determination of financial and community readiness, and identifying needs for planning and budgeting. 

It’s a major step for MVRHS, which has tried unsuccessfully to get the state funding in the past.

According to MVRHS school committee chair Amy Houghton, the endorsement by the MSBA indicates that they acknowledge the need for a building project at the high school. After six attempts by the school to be accepted, Houghton said, the MSBA has voiced its confidence in Island towns’ ability to come together and move forward without ending up at a stalemate regarding the formula. 

“I think the meetings spearheaded by Matt D’Andrea are the reason we got to this point. We need to be able to show that the Island will come together on a funding formula,” Houghton said.

After the school has met the requirements for the eligibility period, it will be qualified for an invitation into the MSBA feasibility study. “Moving forward in the MSBA’s process requires collaboration with the MSBA, and an invitation to a feasibility study will require a further vote of the MSBA board of directors,” the letter states. “The district’s vote by the board of directors approving a potential grant will be no sooner than July 1, 2024, and the district’s eligibility period will commence on Sept. 1, 2022, and conclude on May 29, 2023.” 

The first step the school must take during this eligibility period is to complete the Initial Compliance Certification that will be sent to the school two weeks prior to its commencement date, on August 18, 2022. 

According to the letter, completion of preliminary requirements within the 270-day period does not guarantee that the school will enter into the MSBA funding pipeline, and if it cannot complete the preliminary requirements within the eligibility period, the MSBA will require that it withdraw its statement of interest (SOI). MVRHS will then have to refile its SOI during the next filing period, or when the district has the necessary financial resources and community backing.

All the Island towns have expressed their support for a school building project, but there are still concerns from Oak Bluffs surrounding the regional funding formula for capital projects. The current FY23 funding formula apportions 28.3 percent of the budget to Oak Bluffs, 26.9 percent to Tisbury, 23.5 percent to Edgartown, 14.3 percent to West Tisbury, 5 percent to Chilmark, and 2 percent to Aquinnah. The existing funding formula for capital projects (for which costs are divided up among the towns) requires Oak Bluffs to bear the brunt of the cost because they have a higher per-pupil attendance rate at the high school. The formula can only be changed by a town meeting vote from all six towns.