The fate of the Martha’s Vineyard Family Center surfaced again this week, with the center’s supporters urging the high school committee to consider ways to keep the center at the high school.
The high school, citing low enrollment numbers, has decided to phase out its early childhood vocational program. As a result, the family center will need to relocate by 2014.
Martha’s Vineyard Community Services runs the center, which has operated at the high school for about 16 years through an agreement with the high school to lease the space rent free. The center, which offers a variety of free programming like playgrounds and classes, is supported by a grant from the Children’s Trust Fund.
Family center staff and supporters came to Monday’s high school committee meeting, where Nell Coogan presented a petition signed by more than 250 people calling for “creative ways to expand the Family Center’s contributions on the high school campus.”
As the mother of two daughters, Ms. Coogan said “one of the best things I ever did was to go Baby’s First Year,” a program at the family center.
The petition cites the family center’s importance to Island families and high school students, with 650 families participating in at least one family center activity last year, and calls for keeping the family center’s presence on campus in other ways, perhaps through high school courses, internships or mentorships.
“Although focused on serving the needs of young families, the family center can also be a one-of-a-kind classroom that helps foster what makes this Island a special place: community, education, support,” the petition reads.
Petitioners offered comments praising the center and its location. “The family [center] has been there in many ways since my son was born over two years ago,” Moira Silva, who attended the meeting, wrote on the petition. “I am always impressed at the broad cross-section of people at Family Center events and I believe this is partly due to its key location.”
Marney Toole, family services coordinator for community services, said she called for a dialogue with the high school, and spoke in support of the hub that’s been created around the high school, with the YMCA, Community Services, arena and playing fields all nearby. “It makes a lot of sense to stay within this campus,” she said, and the petition is “a way of saying that there are a lot of people interested in having a dialogue” about how to continue a partnership with the high school.
Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss responded that the high school’s central focus is to educate students in grades nine through 12, and he noted space limitations, including eight to 10 teachers who have no classrooms. He also said the special education program may need new facilities, and a new vocational program may need to take over the family center space.
Mr. Weiss said the school gave the family center a two-year notice in January, allowing ample time to find a new location.
“The high school is not saying the family center is not an important program,” Mr. Weiss said. He said he is interested in a dialogue with the family center to see if there could be a continuing partnership with the high school, but he urged family center supporters to explore other options when it comes to a future location.
In other business at the Monday school committee meeting, high school principal Stephen Nixon announced a variety of acting, art and science of awards for students. Sophomores Leah Fortes and Sadie Dix were both honored at the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, with Leah winning a national gold medal for a black and white portrait drawing and Sadie winning a national silver medal for her photograph Flesh Does Not Define Me. The student work will be on display in New York city, and the two will be honored in a sold-out show next month at Carnegie Hall.
Hannah Moore, Truda Silberstein, Lauren Dostal, Skylah Forend, Fionnuala Howell, Ella Mahoney and Charlotte Potter also competed in the national competition.
Ben Poole, Ella Mahoney, Lila Quinn and Anna Flaherty won art awards in the Cape Cod Times classroom photography contest, with their work featured in the March 19 issue of the paper, while Adahy Gonsalves and Charlotte Hall were finalists in the Photographer’s Forum Best of High School and College Photography contest, sponsored by Nikon. Their work will appear in a book scheduled to be published in June.
Several drama troupe members won awards at the Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild Festival: Haley Hewson and Taylor McNeely won for acting, Chris Pitt and Caleb Enos won for video design, and Katelyn Fritz, Alyssa Cimeno, Derek Rogers and Lena DeMoe won awards for ensemble acting.
Six students competed at the South Shore Regional Science Fair March 10 at Bridgewater State University. Jack Wallace won third place for his project Homework Buddy, and Lee Faraca and Gordon Moore’s project Cost Efficiency: Solar vs. Wind earned an honorable mention. The three will move on to compete at the state science and engineering fair in May at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A high school teacher also received honors: Julie Schmidt, a ninth-grade special education biology teacher, was one of three 2012 Conservation Teachers of the Year, an award presented by Mass Audubon and the New England Farm and Garden Association.
Freshman Gordon Moore won the 15th annual linguini bridge contest, with his pasta bridge setting a new record of holding 2,150 pounds without breaking.