West Tisbury School still waiting on new kitchen 

Electrical work is completed, but officials anticipate future challenges.

West Tisbury School's kitchen isn't quite ready yet. —MV Times

The West Tisbury School’s new kitchen still isn’t up and running, as it awaits final approval from electrical and building inspections. Electrical and power snafus delayed the project, Principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt said at Monday’s Up-Island Regional School Committee meeting. On the first day of school, kitchen staff were making use of the cafeteria space as a temporary kitchen, leaving kids without their usual space to eat breakfast and lunch. Two weeks later, the kitchen is still not approved for use. 

Lowell-Bettencourt said the inspections should happen this week, but the kitchen project’s power struggles relate to a larger project around the school’s electrical power. Initially, according to Lowell-Bettencourt, there was not enough power to support the new kitchen appliances when they were installed. With the electrical work completed, the inspection is the last step to getting cooking with the brand-new stove, oven, and dishwasher. 

“We are very close to our kitchen being fully operational. We did a system test today — the fire suppression system — and it passed. Now we’re waiting on the final inspections, which we hope will happen this week from the electrician and building inspection. And then we’ll be fully operational.”

Lowell-Bettencourt said the food trailer, another project the school expected to have up and running this year, is temporarily on hold until the kitchen is functional.

“We are looking forward to opening up the kitchen fully. Everything is in place; it looks beautiful. It’s really transformed the kitchen.” 

Committee member Robert Lionette asked if the committee would be responsible for paying any additional costs associated with the delays in opening the kitchen. Lowell-Bettencourt said for the moment, she doesn’t anticipate needing assistance, citing a revolving food account as a source of funding. But should it come up, she said, she expects the committee to provide assistance, noting that the costs are more than just the equipment, and unexpected costs had already arisen over the course of the project.

“It’s not just the equipment, it’s installing the equipment. Beyond just unplugging and plugging in, there were lots of changes that had to happen, some of which we did not know would have to happen,” Lowell-Bettencourt said. The principal said she felt confident in West Tisbury’s ability to handle the costs without assistance. 

“It definitely was a learning curve,” said Lowell-Bettencourt of the process of redoing the kitchen. She commented that there had been a lack of “pre-work” and planning around the exact steps and procedures that would be required for the kitchen installation.

Part of this critical planning had to do with the electrical power — an issue the school has been seeking to resolve for some time, said Lowell-Bettencourt. She said the school’s former electrician had spoken with Lowell-Bettencourt in the past about doing an electrical study because of all the new additions on the building.

“We were able to move enough things around to get power to the kitchen to power what we have,” said the principal, but this opens the door to a potentially larger project that the school will have to undertake. 

Lowell-Bettencourt shared that upon discovering there wasn’t enough power to hook everything up in the kitchen, they contacted Eversource for an electrical study. 

“To our surprise and somewhat happiness, we don’t need to bring more power in; we just have to see how to get power to different places,” she said. “The problem with our power is as this building was added on to, the power is far distant from where it is needed. So our next step is looking at how we can move power around the school so it’s accessible where we need it.” She said it wasn’t as simple a fix as just running another power line, which is what she initially thought might be the solution. 

There was some discussion among the committee about how much money had been spent on electrical projects for the school, and how much had already gone into the kitchen. Lowell-Bettencourt agreed to get back to the committee with accounting for kitchen expenses and a plan around where else power is needed throughout the school, and how to move it. 

“I can’t tell you how much we’re going to need in the end,” said Lowell-Bettencourt.