School project is needed


To the Editor:

I am a parent of an incoming Tisbury kindergartener and 6th grader as well as a teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. This year has started off so joyful at the Tisbury School.  The Tisbury staff danced and sang their way into convocation and the PTO hosted an amazing BBQ.  I am so grateful for the amazing Tisbury School Community. This of course is shadowed by what is to come of our building. With the current cost estimates as higher than what was approved by the town, the town is going to ask taxpayers for additional money in a town neeting on September 20th. There is a renewed discussion around the school.  Many of the same issues that came up in previous votes are being raised again.

The existing conditions report in both projects shows considerable deterioration of the building envelope, water damage and exposure to lead and potentially asbestos. This report was downplayed in the MSBA proposal that failed. Members of the public presented options that made it appear that a superficial upgrade would be sufficient, less costly and downplayed the significance of the building’s deterioration. Due to the failure of that vote and the community feedback that wanted to save the existing building as much as possible, a gut renovation and addition to get the building up to code and in compliance was proposed.

This renovation/addition is complicated by the hazardous materials that exist throughout the building. Flaking paint at the original building was scraped and then encapsulated. Old painted plaster walls are covered with sheetrock. Black mold has been detected as the building envelope has been failing for years. The current project takes into account the complications of removal and remediation for these hazardous materials.

The Tisbury School staff, teachers and administration are a model of what a quality school should look like. I am grateful that everyday my children are educated there in the inclusive environment they create for all kids. This is despite the challenges they face. The current building does not meet accessibility requirements along with health codes for the kitchen. The school was cited for $2 million of ADA violations in a recent assessment. The current building also does not comply with HIPAA requirements for the nurse’s office.

English language learning, special education and support services are provided sometimes in closets, hallways or in overcrowded classrooms. These practices do not follow inclusive practices outlined in IDEA regulations for schools. This does not even begin to address the need for the building to meet the school’s educational plan. I trust lifelong educators to understand these conditions are not acceptable. Their feedback working with Tappe’s experienced school designers to make the building efficiently serve all students was instrumental in designing the current plan.

This whole process has been very challenging for our town and it is easy to want to blame and point fingers. I am imploring us all to take a deep breath, research and think before we speak or type online and model safe, respectful and thoughtful behavior that we want our children to see.   Richard Rohr says, “the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” On September 20th let vote to do better.  Let’s listen to those with experience and trust our town leaders like our treasurer who outlined his support for the additional borrowing and the building committee who has worked tirelessly on this project for years. I will continue to be so grateful for the amazing education my students receive.  I hope all Tisbury residents for many years to come can say the same.

Anna Cotton
Vineyard Haven