Shrinking Island Schools

Growing communities traditionally have meant growing schools, both for the number of students attending them and the teachers and staff charged with educating them. So it has gone on the Vineyard, where the regional high school has never had to cut staff.

Now a budget squeeze has led administrators to eliminate a half position for the coming school year in the music department, a move that has sparked a grass roots Islandwide effort to raise funds to restore the position.

As much as the unprecedented cut has angered Islanders, a far darker cloud may loom just over the horizon. Enrollment at the high school is expected to drop by one hundred fifty students, or about twenty per cent, in the coming decade.

The reverse comes as a bit of a jolt on the Vineyard, where school population has grown exponentially in the past five decades.

School enrollment projects are based on larger population projections for the Island year-round population, which is expected to continue to grow, albeit more slowly.

Staff at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission trace the disparity to an anticipated decline in the number of young families on the Island. The yawning gap between what young workers can earn on the Island and the cost of housing threatens to send existing families packing, and to discourage new families from settling on the Vineyard.

The latest school enrollment projections are fresh evidence that the Vineyard must be prepared to take extraordinary steps to preserve an economically diverse community, especially one where there is still room for families, students and teachers.