Regional School under construction, August 1959. Photo by Albert Corwin.
An estimated 200 people stood squinting in the brilliant, hot sun Sunday afternoon, and watched Gordon Kelvin White and Robert Eldridge White Jr. raise the United States flag slowly to the top of a tall aluminum flagpole set in front of the new Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Before that Rev. Thomas H. Lehman had offered a short prayer; and after that, Mrs. Wilfrid O. White merely spoke the words that were inscribed in the base of the flagpole she had given the school, and on which her grandsons had run up the flag.
 
This brief ceremony heralded the opening of the new school for the first time for inspection by the public. Brief and simple though it was, the ceremony was a dramatic one, in the way that drama frequently feeds upon an absence of dramatic qualities. There could have been only a few present in those first few moments who did not hear the essence of climax in the words Mrs. White had caused to be placed on the flagpole base. The inscription says,“Dedicated to the men and women whose vision and labor have founded this school.”
 

A First, Necessary Step

 
There could have been only a few present who did not realize that they would perhaps never know the full extent of that vision and labor, of which the construction of a new consolidated physical plant is only the first, necessary step.
 
But those same people did know that the school they were inspecting then for the first time since its completion was the product of compromise. They knew that it was an edifice standing almost as a monument to the kind of democratic compromise by which, although it frequently curtails the vision and augments the labor, most of the accomplishments of Americans are effected.
 
These things were known if perhaps they were not thought of, when the first 200 people filed into the new building to see what it looked like. The number grew to more than 2,000 before the afternoon was over, and there were many who came the next day.
 
The faculty of the school was assembled in the spacious main foyer of the building, ready to act as guides to groups of fifteen to twenty people. The tours were arranged in this way in an effort to maintain an orderly progression through the building and in an effort to have a knowledgeable person with each group to answer questions.
 
What these individual touring groups saw was a school still needing much in the way of furnishings and equipment. Every tour guide had an itemized list of the pieces still to arrive before each room could be used to its full capabilities. But in spite of the incompleteness of the furnishings, the vast majority of the people came out of the school visibly and favorably impressed, and, during the first hour at any rate, the one comment most frequently heard said by people completing the tour was, “They really seem to have gotten their money’s worth.”
 
The “they” referred to was, of course, the regional school district committee, and the implication of the remark seemed to be surprise that so much school could be bought for slightly more than a million dollars.
 
There was criticism, too, but it appeared to be scattered thinly. It was curiously ironic that in several instances, the objects of criticism were the very objects that had been modified by the planning committee in a spirit of compromise with the opponents of the regional school idea.
 
For instance, one of the early criticisms by opponents of the school, back in the days when the first set of plans had been up for approval, had been that an auditorium was a needless luxury. These opponents were centered in Vineyard Haven, and it was Vineyard Haven which prevented the first set of plans from being accepted.
 

Auditorium Trimmed in Size

 
When the second set of plans were drawn by a second architectural firm, the committee, heeding the warning of experience, had the auditorium trimmed down in size so that it became essentially a music center. Musical training has never been considered a needless luxury on the Island, even by the original opponents of the regional school, and the proposed music center met no opposition.
 
The main room of this area has a seating capacity of only 132, but it is a handsome room, with an inclined floor, a “floating” acoustical ceiling, a full size stage, and a pleasant school scheme of blue and white walls and gold proscenium curtains. Because of its size, or lack of it, the room pretends to be nothing more than a music room that will be also used for group testing, class assemblies and special programs not requiring the attendance of more than a third of the student body.
 
Yet the criticism has heard that the “auditorium” was too small, and the irony of it was that among the critics were members of the opposition which had demanded the sacrifice of the auditorium.
 
Other people more favorably disposed could, and did, lament that the music center was not an auditorium of ample proportions to serve not only the purposes of the school but also the purposes of the Island community, which has no public auditorium in which it can meet with a feeling of real civic pride.
 
However, the music center was the last place on the established tour of the building. The tour began to the right of the main foyer with the office in which the guidance director will base his operations - when a guidance director, a category of the teaching profession that is most in demand in contemporary educational systems, can be found. The area consists of a library and two small conference rooms, where students can be interviewed in private.
 

Next Came Offices

 
Next, came the principal’s office, the central office and the health room, a spacious place which, except for the school nurse’s desk and chair, is now equipped for examinations. How Miss Irene V. Landers, for so long the school nurse, would have appreciated that.
 
Beyond the administrative suite, there is a group of three laboratories, the physics laboratory, the chemistry laboratory and the biology laboratory, with smaller preparation rooms adjoining each.
 
The biology laboratory is paired in the front of the northwest wing of the school with the business administration room, which will be used for bookkeeping, shorthand and general business classes. Next came the typing room, equipped with enough standard and electric model typewriters to accommodate thirty students at once, and then the office practice room which will be used for classes in business machines, business law, filing, and allied subjects.
 
The next places on the tour, the superintendent’s and his clerk’s offices, and the conference room, had not yet been furnished, so it was with real surprise that the touring citizens came into the library which, except for books, was almost completely furnished. It was the place, also, where comments were made most volubly, as person after person sampled the easy chairs in the reading lounge area of the room, with its rust-colored sofa and contrasting chairs set on the island of carpet, or examined the handsome captain’s chairs that surround the long study tables. The chairs are painted black and each one has the seal of the school in decalomania affixed to the back. All the equipment is the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hall in their parents’ memory.
 

They’ll Like to Read

 
“Oh, how the children will like to come in here and read,” one woman said.
 
“Oh boy! Oh boy! School was never like this!” explained a man whose schooling came in the days when institutions were supposed to look like institutions, no matter how grim the aspect.
 
“You could have sandwiches right here!” declared another woman, plopping herself down on the sofa and patting the “coffee table” in front of it.
 
Off the library is a work room, completely furnished, and off the work room is an audio-visual equipment room, containing an opaque projector, two film strip projectors, a tape recorder, portable screens and a 16 mm movie projector.
 
The teachers’ lounge, on the other side of the library, is also completely furnished with tastefully chosen chairs, a sofa and tables. The furniture of this room, of the women teachers’ private room giving off it, of the library, and of the still incomplete conference room, are gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hall of Edgartown.
 
All the nine classrooms of the academic wing are quipped almost identically. There is, however, a subtle gradation in color schemes from one room to the other, with warmer colors taking precedence in the rooms that have the least exposure to the winter sun.
 
A trip through the boys’ locker room and showers led to the gymnasium, stunning in its vast and lofty expanse, but which will be contracted visually once the bleachers and the basketball backboards are installed. It can also be divided into two smaller gymnasiums by means of a folding partition, which was being installed at the time of the open house, enabling the simultaneous conduct of boys’ and girls’ physical education classes.
 

Pink Has Fewer Partisans

 
The potentialities of the home economics room could be seen in spite of the fact that it was not completely equipped. The color scheme, in the opinion of many, might possibly take some getting used to. Pink, it seems, has fewer partisans than enemies, but the main objection of this scheme of pink and plum might be that it is so much bolder than the other colors employed elsewhere in the school. The dining table and chairs were given by Mr. and Mrs. Albert K. Hydeman.
 
The arts and crafts room, a light, sunny room, equipped with storage spaces and a wash-up sink, left much to the imagination of visitors on Sunday, for almost none of the other equipment had arrived, neither the mechanical drawing tables nor the art “horses” and easels nor the art supplies.
 
But the industrial arts area was remarkable in its completeness. All that was missing, according to the list, were the teacher’s desk and chair and the electrical adapters which hang from the electrical tracks up near the ceiling. It was evident that the industrial art supervisor, Robert C. Andrews, had spent a great deal of the summer erecting and arranging the equipment and furnishings and himself constructing many teaching aids, such as the colorful bulletin board at the entrance of the room.
 
The tour then went through the big boiler room, looking clean as a whistle, the kitchen with its gleaming new cooking utensils catching the light from the clerestory window above the corridor doorway, and the cafeteria with its light wood paneling and the window looking out over a planting box and the lawn beyond.
 

Tour Ends in Music Center

 
And finally the tour ended up in the music center, which, in spite of its smallness, came as a climax. Within the relatively small area devoted to the center, an amazing number of specific compartments have been created. Besides the main room and stage, there are a number of private practice rooms and storage rooms and the music supervisor’s office. On the stage is a lectern given to the school by Mr. and Mrs. Irving Kligler.
 
Following the individual tours everywhere they went in the school, were the strains of music. Chamber music in the boiler room was a momentary delight. The music came through a two-way communication system between the central office and all areas of the school. An adjunct of the system is a radio, and it was from that that the music was emanating on Sunday.
 
The new school also boasts a number of paintings given by Island artists — Julius Delbos, Mary Drake Coles, Virginia Berresford, Mrs. I. R. Hoxie and Ruth Vietor.
 
These, in addition to the bouquets of flowers sent for the opening by Bill Seward’s Seagoing Grocery, Morrice Florist, and the officers and staff of the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, brightened the areas where they were found.