Repairs at the Chilmark School will not be completed in time for opening day, and yesterday school and town leaders were busy with last-minute arrangements for an alternative site for the children to attend school.
Opening day is Thursday for all five elementary schools on the Vineyard.
Schools superintendent Kriner Cash said it was decided yesterday that Chilmark School students in kindergarten through third grade will be housed in a temporary classroom at the Old Menemsha School, and students in fourth and fifth grade will attend school in the Chilmark Library.
School officials said the temporary arrangement will probably only be necessary for a few days.
"We're going to open school; we've just had a walk-through and we will do this for the two or three days that we expect to be out. If more time is needed, they can stay there - it's all adequate," Mr. Cash said.
After Friday, fourth and fifth graders are scheduled to go out on the sailing schooner Shenandoah for one week, and by the time they return the work on the school is expected to be done.
There are 52 students in the Chilmark School. Most are from West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah.
Built five years ago in the village near Beetlebung Corner, the Chilmark School has been plagued by problems with the physical plant. This summer a new construction overhaul got under way, after voters gave the green light to spend some $400,000 to repair the building. The work included removing ceilings and walls to install insulation, and all the flooring in the school had to be replaced.
The work had a late start after town officials ran into problems finding a state-licensed contractor to do the work.
Yesterday Susan Parker, a Chilmark member of the up-Island school committee, said the work is nearly finished. She said contractors had set next Friday as a likely day for completing the work.
"I think we're very close; we're going to miss it by a few days, but it's not going to be much more than that," Ms. Parker said.
"The children take precedence - we've got to have them in an educable learning environment and we'll work it out," Mr. Cash said, adding:
"What I have to stay focused on is the number of days our students have to be in school. If they start later, they have to go later in the year and we have to watch that. What this means is that we won't lose days or add any at the end of the year. At this point Plan B is solid enough for me to be satisfied."
Ms. Parker echoed the sentiment.
"With the little campus we have [around the school], we have lots of options. We have the community center, the library, the old Menemsha School and we have the outside - the weather is nice and those first few days of school really involve everyone getting to know each other and be cohesive," she said, adding:
"We're not worried. We're happy that the job is almost done."
Ms. Parker said the outlook for the Chilmark School is now decidedly auspicious, against a backdrop of a new interim principal, hired just this week, a fresh blueprint for getting enrollment on a stable footing and strong voter support for repairing the problems in the physical plant.
"I am just delighted - now we know that the work is getting done, the place is fresh and we don't have all these things hanging over our head," she said. She continued:
"The silver lining in all of this is everybody in the town reached the point last year where it was like, what are we going to do, are we going to limp along or move forward with vigor? The whole town decided we want the school, it's important to the community. It was really an upbeat experience, and I feel like there is a lot of hope."
Mr. Cash agreed.
"We're not going to be able to put children in for opening day but I am very encouraged by the pace. The workers are getting the flooring done, and it will be an even more beautiful school when it's all done. Our new principal is coordinating all the details with the teachers and the parents will receive letters and phone calls," he said.
Mr. Cash said extra credit goes to head custodian Lisa Nichols, who he said coordinated all the moving to accommodate the students. "She has been tremendous," he said, concluding:
"There is a spirit of renewed optimism and that's always a good thing when you see people working together in positive spirits. I think that's great."