Over 100 Chilmark voters unanimously approved a lease for the town’s preschool project, the sole warrant article in a special town meeting Monday night.
With town meeting approval, a new building for the Chilmark Preschool is planned for completion in September 2025.
The planned building is a response to pressures from rising enrollment in the Chilmark Preschool—a private nonprofit—and the Chilmark School where the preschool currently operates. Officials say that the number of students at the Chilmark School is roughly double what it was 15 years ago.
According to Deb Zetterberg of Friends of the Chilmark Preschool, the group behind the building project, the preschool currently has 20 students along with a waiting list.
No taxpayer money is being sought for the project’s $3.5 million cost, according to Chilmark Preschool board of directors member Virginia Barbatti. Barbatti told voters that around 40 percent of the funding is expected through grants, with the rest from private donations.
Voters poured into the community center on Monday night, many stopping by a display of preliminary designs for the building. After the vote, attendees cheered and applauded the lease’s approval.
After roughly 20 minutes of statements from town officials and people behind the project, voters approved the lease of up to 30 years for less than 4,500 square feet of town-owned land behind the Chilmark Elementary School.
Before the vote, Zetterberg explained the background of the preschool and building project.
“[The preschool] started in 2005,” Zetterberg said. “There was a survey done, and it was indicated that we needed to have a feeder school for Chilmark School. At that time, they had 39 students. Right now, they have 70. So we have been fortunate for 18 years to be in the classroom in the Chilmark School.”
However, Zetterberg said that increasing enrollment at both schools is complicating the current space arrangement. “They need the classroom back,” Zetterberg said.
The project’s square footage figure was amended in the meeting from an initial 3,000 square feet, to reflect additional space for play and areas required by licensing. The building itself is planned to be 2,400 square feet, with three main areas of 800 square feet each—a left wing; a center with a foyer, kitchen, bathrooms and director’s office; and a right wing. Zetterberg proposed the amendment, which passed unanimously.
After the vote, members of Friends were thankful for the meeting’s turnout and its outcome.
“It was so encouraging to have such a great turnout and a unanimous vote, and we really felt the support of our community in making this happen,” Barbatti said.
“There is still work to be done in a variety of areas,” Zetterberg said after the meeting. “We don’t have all the details yet but we couldn’t move on until we had a ‘yes’ vote tonight.”