MVRHS feasibility study advances

More details about specific funding amounts to come. 

MVRHS will move forward with the feasibility study in the MSBA process. — MV Times

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee unanimously approved moving forward with a feasibility study in the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) process during a Tuesday evening meeting. 

John Stevens, who was hired to look into a feasibility study in the MSBA process, presented his findings to the committee. Stevens said he started with a list of “17 high schools currently active in the MSBA program” and in “some phase or module in the process of rebuilding or building a new high school in the commonwealth.” After reviewing the details about each of the schools, Stevens selected four schools “that mostly resemble our high school in terms of student population, academic programs, CTE (career and technical education) and Chapter 74 programs, projects and project status.”

“All of these four schools that I chose out of the 17 are in the initial modules, or the initial status of that pipeline, in that process,” Stevens said. These schools were Watertown High School, Wakefield Memorial High School, Nashoba Regional High School, and Monument Mountain Regional High School. Stevens showed a dataset with information “gleaned from many conversations with high school principals and OPMs (owner’s project manager) at the four schools.” Stevens also added Tisbury School in the data set “as a baseline” of a project the committee was familiar with. 

Among the various pieces of information available, the feasibility study was of highest interest for committee members. Tisbury School had a 2016 feasibility study that cost $825,000 that lasted less than a year. Watertown had a 2019 feasibility study that was planned for $1.6 million that ended up costing $2.6 million and lasting 28 months compared to the planned 16 months. Watertown also did its schematic design twice. Wakefield had a 2022 feasibility study that cost $2 million and lasted 13 months. Nashoba had a 2021 feasibility study that cost $1.5 million and lasted 18 months. Monument Mountain has an ongoing feasibility study that was funded $1.5 million in 2021. Most of the schools were looking to build new structures and incorporated the athletic program (e.g. field, athletic building) as part of their project. 

“One of the things that jumped out at me is the Watertown project. The cost, what happened there?” committee chair Robert Lionette asked. 

“The building committee went as far as the design phase in the initial run, the initial part of the project and then the building committee had disagreements on … what the programs would be within the school itself. So, they had to come to a consensus after much discussion and they went kind of in a couple of different directions once they got through the design phase. So, they had to back up and redo the design phase again, which cost them a million dollars and a lot of time,” Stevens said. 

One thing Stevens unanimously heard from the principals and OPMs was that a building committee “really has to have a consensus” and a solidified idea about what the final school will look like “in terms of program and construction.” Stevens also pointed out that schools like Watertown come from single towns, so the representation needed on the building committee would be smaller. 

The appropriated funds would cover the OPM, the designer’s fees, the primary design program, the preferred schematic design, and two modules of schematic designs in the feasibility study. This would make up half of the MSBA modules. 

According to MVRHS special projects coordinator Sam Hart, the school is about two years away from actually funding the project from where it currently stands, which is the eligibility period. Approval of funds would need to go through votes by the towns. 

School committee member Skipper Manter said he wants to establish “an understanding” between the school committee and the building committee through an “orientation” about the process to better prepare presenting the proposal to the towns. 

Stevens gave an estimate for the feasibility study to be $1.815 million. Stevens said he calculated this by finding the average feasibility study costs of the four high schools ($1.65 million) plus a 10% contingency factor. Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman made a point that cost data is “in the rearview mirror” and “we’re in an inflationary period right now,” which would affect the costs. Stevens later said the feasibility study is reimbursable up to what the MSBA awards the school. 

Manter and school committee member Kathryn Shertzer both said the amount of money that will need to be appropriated will realistically be higher. Manter said he thinks it will be closer to $2 million and Shertzer said the 10% contingency may not be enough, mentioning the “Island factor.” 

After more discussion, the school committee voted to borrow the necessary amount of money for the feasibility study and communicate with the towns their intentions. The specific amount will be discussed in the future. 

The school committee also received a presentation about MVRHS’ CTE program from its director, Jack O’Malley. Details about the program was one of the deliverables for MSBA.