School project advances

Gym demolition and temporary classroom installation slated for summer.


At a joint meeting of Tisbury’s select board, school building committee, and school committee, various project leaders for the $55 million Tisbury School renovation and addition project provided updates with timelines. Project leaders provided a number of visuals, including drawings and timetables. Key timeline points are demolition of the gym from June to September, modular classrooms ready for use in the fall, completion of the entire project by Feb. 26, 2024, and a target occupancy of March 1, 2024.

Mike Owen, senior project manager at CHA Consulting (formerly Daedulus), owner’s project manager for the project, said significant milestones were in the rearview mirror: finishing the design/development phase — “a great yeoman’s task led by Tappé Architecture,” procurement of modular classrooms, and acquiring a construction manager at risk. 

Overall, Owen said, “we actively have been setting up, and strategizing, and planning as we continue the development of the project.”

Tappé architect Chris Blessen said design development on the project finished at the end of 2021. The construction document phase of the project began in 2022, he added. “So that’s really the phase where we start to solidify more things, work out more construction details, and work with the construction manager, W.T. Rich, to basically make it buildable,” Blessen said. 

Blessen said there have been only minor changes to the layout of the building, “little pushes and pulls on things here and there.”

Harvey Heskenas, a W.T. Rich senior project manager for the project, said mobilization is underway. 

“If you swing by 55 [West] William, you see that we have leveled off that area, and we’re bringing in our trailers,” Heskenas said. “We’re also in the process of securing a demo and abatement subcontractor to commence the work later on this spring.”

Evan Moore, another W.T. Rich senior project manager, said site trappings, like screening, are coming soon.

“We’ll be working in temporary fencing and screening next week,” Moore said, “along with temporary power to the construction trailers, along with temporary water as well.”

Preparation for the temporary school will become evident “more toward the end of the school year,” he said, and in the fall, the temporary school should be finished for students.

A temporary student dropoff area on West William Street will be located near the modular classrooms, Moore said. Construction on that area will take place over the next few months.

When asked about the abatement by The Times, Heskenas said, “Basically in older buildings such as this, a lot of times back in the day they used to use asbestos for fireproofing. We obviously know now that’s not quite a good thing, but back in the day that used to be the thing to do. Anytime you do any kind of construction you have to abate that material — i.e., get rid of it. And you have to have to do it in a safe and legal way. When abatement occurs, basically what’s going to happen is a certified abatement contractor will come in, he will isolate the area that needs to be abated. That area, when it gets isolated, obviously it has to meet certain standards. There will be an industrial hygienist who works independently of the abatement contractor, who will ensure that that containment is correctly installed and is correctly working. Once that’s in place, the abatement contractor will go in, he will get rid of all the asbestos material, they’ll contain it — usually they’ll contain it in drums or whatnot — and then they will ship it to a disposal facility that is authorized to dispose of that material. Once that’s done, the industrial hygienist will come back in. He will ensure that all the asbestos is gone. He will monitor and check the air to make sure there’s no airborne particulate. Once you get the green light — the all clear — the containment comes down, and you begin the next process, whether it’s demolition of the building, whether it’s reconstruction of the building, or whatever.”

When asked where the asbestos is, Heskenas said most projects have a hazardous materials report done “prior to bidding,” and went on to say, “We do have that. I can’t tell you off the top of my head where exactly in the gym it is.”

Former Tisbury School Building Committee member Rachel Orr asked if all the bids will be in before the gym gets demolished. 

Heskanas said they “probably won’t.” Heskenas said major subcontractors should be onboard before the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) is established. “That is the price that we will do the job for, and we will not exceed that based on all the bid documents that we’ve been provided,” he said. 

The GMP finalization date, according to a table provided at the meeting, is July 9. 

Circling back to the demolition question about the gym, he said they will “most likely not” have all the bids in before demolition.

Citing cost overruns for the Chilmark fire station and Tri-Town Ambulance headquarters, Orr said she wanted to know if there was sufficient money on hand before “we get going in earnest.”

Tisbury School Committee and school building committee member Michael Watts said Orr presented a good question. “We’ll have to take a look at that,” he said.


  1. With so few new building lots left in Tisbury is it wise to create so much new town debt when the number of new students will steadily decrease over the next 30 years?

    • Mark– Is there some sort of correlation between the number of building lots and the number of pregnancies in a community ?

    • The project has started. It had been in the planning stages for years. There have literally been hundreds of public meetings and forums where you could have voiced your opinion before it was approved if you were concerned about it. Not to mention that the projected enrollment study estimates 386 students in 2030, compared to 272 when they study was done in 2020.

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