In 1854, the town of Tisbury built its first school on Centre Street in Vineyard Haven. Seventy-five years later, in 1929, that school was demolished and a new Tisbury School was constructed at its current location. This school has served the town well for almost 90 years, but is at the end of its useful life. Windows have failed, the roof has multiple leaks, brick is cracking and needs repointing, and the cafeteria and gym are just too small. The renovations needed just to bring this building into compliance with current building codes would cost over $20 million, and that would not even begin to address educational needs. The Tisbury building committee recently voted to build a new Tisbury school on the same site. Their vote showed the foresight to replace the Tisbury school with a new, state-of-the-art K-8 elementary school that will meet our students’ needs for today, the next 50 years, and beyond.

Despite the space limitations, the Tisbury School has served its students admirably, thanks to a dedicated staff and wonderful children and parents. Tisbury School students consistently demonstrate high achievement on statewide tests, and they are well prepared for high school and beyond. However, the school building committee and school administration, after looking at multiple sites, touring other schools, and reviewing multiple options, realized that a new school has substantial advantages over renovating and adding to the existing school. A new building will furnish teachers with the tools necessary to meet the growing needs of our student population. Individualized instructional spaces for English Language Learners and students with special needs will allow these students to receive the specialized instruction they require to make appropriate progress and keep up with their grade level peers. Additionally, the new building will provide the infrastructure to integrate modern technology into the educational program, supporting students as they utilize software to develop concepts and permitting teachers to use programs that can target specific student needs and learning styles. Group spaces in the building will bring teams of students together to collaborate on school projects or attend presentations. In today’s global economy, students must have the skills needed to conduct research, work in teams, and effectively deliver presentations. A new Tisbury school will provide the staff with the tools to prepare our children for success.

Not interrupting the students’ education during construction is a priority for the building committee. A new building will allow the current school to be utilized while the new facility is built. Moreover, the cost of the new option is less expensive than a renovation/addition, and the new school will incorporate energy-efficient technologies that will reduce operational costs and environmental impact. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, which will be paying for over 40 per cent of the eligible costs of the project, requires the town to choose the option that is most cost effective and educationally appropriate.

There are many challenges ahead for the project, including schematic design and further approval from the state, and final approval by a majority vote at town meeting. It’s vital that we stay focused on the mission of this project, and unite as a town behind what’s really important: providing the finest possible educational facility for our children. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity; let’s make the most of it.

Matthew D’Andrea

The writer is superintendent for the Vineyard public schools. Cancer Support