Three island towns voted Tuesday night at their annual town meetings to support funding a high school feasibility study, which will help advance the Island’s regional district through the planning and building process for a new or renovated school building.
The $2 million study is a necessary step in the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) process; the authority could pay for nearly 40 percent of the project.
Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah still need to cast their votes for the high school feasibility study at their own annual town meetings, coming up on April 25, April 26, and May 11, respectively.
Edgartown voted unanimously to support the feasibility study on Tuesday. The votes in Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury weren’t unanimous, but it passed with overwhelming support.
For school committee members, the three votes shows that Islanders support the improvements, upgrades, and space expansion at the high school.
“I am extremely excited to have the support of three of our towns on the high school’s feasibility study,” vice chair of the MVRHS school committee Kimberly Kirk told the Times on Wednesday morning. “This study is critical to the MSBA process, which will allow us to provide an improved learning space for generations of students to come.”
“We look forward to the coming town meetings, and hope that the island’s towns will support this important piece of the building process so that we can continue to do our best to meet the educational and social needs of our students and prepare them for life beyond,” Kirk continued.
MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy endorsed the funding request at Oak Bluffs town meeting on Tuesday. She started off by thanking town officials for their leadership of the regional funding formula negotiations. That funding agreement was passed in November.
“You did what many of us thought was impossible,” Dingledy said. “To arrive at a formula specific to this building project, and paved the way for our school’s’ long-sought-after acceptance into the Massachusetts State Building Authority program.”
Islandwide, the need for a building project at the high school has been long understood and accepted, Dingledy said, adding that the feasibility study is crucial in helping direct the school toward a specific project.
“Much of the building dates to the Fifties, the systems are out of date, insufficient, and beyond useful life,” Dingledy said. “Our corrected maintenance and our piecemeal approach to replacements and renovations are costly. The facilities lack the flexibility and the basic size requirements to accommodate our student population and our educational programming.”
Dingledy urged voters to support the allocation. “There is no better time for us to take this important first step,” she said. “We have the political support of town leadership, and we have the financial support of the state through the MSBA, which will share the cost of the feasibility study and the ultimate building project … If we don’t act now, we will surely pay more, so please vote to support the feasibility study. Let’s take the first step. Let’s see the commitment through. The building needs at this school are not going away, but the opportunity could.”