Chilmark Preschool seeking two-year extension

The Up Island School Committee gave its support to extend the lease another two years, amid concerns over increased enrollment and a lack of space.

The Chilmark School — MV Times

The Up Island Regional School Committee is supporting a two-year extension for a preschool to continue to operate out of the Chilmark School, but that’s amid frustrations they are taking up needed space with enrollment growing.

The up-Island committee recommended last week that the town extend the lease for the Chilmark Preschool for another two years. That’s with the lease scheduled to end in June.

Meanwhile, voters at Chilmark town meeting on Monday will act on a possible, more permanent solution for the preschool. An article requests the town issue a request for proposals to lease a small piece of land adjacent to the elementary school to construct a two-classroom building for preschoolers and toddlers.

The Chilmark Preschool is a private, nonprofit school located in the Chilmark School, which provides classroom space for grades K-5.

The Up Island School Committee met on Thursday, April 13, and put its support behind extending the lease at its current location. A motion was made by committee chair Robert Lionette to recommend the town extend the preschool lease for 2 years. 

But while the committee supported Lionette’s motion, some members voiced concerns about having enough space. Enrollment has been growing at the K – 5 Chilmark School and the preschool, while space is running out for students and teachers at the building.

The preschool is currently occupying an old K-1 classroom space that was not being used at the time. But with growing enrollment, there is now limited space to accommodate all the K-1 students in the building. 

Superintendent of Island schools Richard Smith agreed with the temporary, two-year extension. But he acknowledged that the current enrollment of 28 students in the Chilmark School’s combined Kindergarten and first grade classroom, which is the maximum capacity for a school that was built to support a small population of island students.

Committee member Skip Manter expressed his frustration. “The preschool is a wonderful thing,” He said. “But it seems to be cramping our K-5 education for Up-Island students…I am frustrated with the preschool for carrying on there when the space is needed for the Chilmark school.”

The committee’s recommendation to the town is to allow the preschool to remain on the Chilmark School campus, and for the preschool to help with costs of maintaining and updating the schools, particularly the “specials” classroom space. The space is used for art, music, and theater classes.

Lionette brought up a prior conversation in which the preschool offered to help cover any costs that may come up. The up-Island committee and the superintendent requested the Chilmark Preschool provide financial assistance with needed space and building repairs. 

“Many people have struggled in the past year to make this jigsaw puzzle work,” Lionette said. “I think this is a very creative solution.” 

According to Alicia Knight, Board Member for the Chilmark Preschool Board of Directors, the preschool hopes to build their own space somewhere else on the property. 

“We are looking for a space on the campus to build something, and that doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

Knight thanked the committee for their continued support for the Chilmark Preschool, and recalled how the preschool first moved into the Chilmark School. “There was a classroom in the building that was not being utilized and it seemed like a good idea. It’s helped our community in ways we never could have even predicted,” Knight said. 

She also commented that the town and committee has been “very supportive.”

Smith acknowledged, “there has been real compromise here.”  

“It’s a 2 year solution,” said Superintendent Smith. “Beyond that, I think the conversation needs to continue.” 

If the 2 year extension is approved by the town, the Chilmark preschool will remain at the Chilmark School until 2025. 


  1. Can someone please explain to me how school enrollment keeps going up all over the island and yet they tell us there is an urgent housing demand. Most families with school-age kids are on the lower income scale so they must be living somewhere. We do not need an artificially created Housing bank tax to suck more money out of the homeowner because apparently people are finding housing. I do not disagree There is a lack of affordable housing, but I do know that affordable housing is being built. Just look what Edgartown and Oak Bluffs have recently approved all without a housing bank tax. Creating a new tax is never the answer, and they never go away.

    • The explanation is that as housing demand increases school enrollment increases.
      Affordable housing increases school enrollment.
      Unaffordable does not, those kids go private.

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