At a packed, emotional meeting, the Tisbury school building committee voted Monday to ask the Massachusetts School Building Authority for more time to sort through its options after the failed vote at the annual town election last week.

Len Morris: “People show up at the last minute and that’s the way the Vineyard works.” — Mark Alan Lovewell

Voters defeated a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exemption question for a $46.6 million new school by 21 votes. Two weeks earlier the school project had been approved by a wide margin on the town meeting floor.

The school building committee now has until May 8 to send a letter to the MSBA formally notifying it of the voting results and outlining a plan.

On Monday night building committee chairman Colleen McAndrews, whose group has been working to develop the project for the past two years, convened a meeting that included the town selectmen, finance committee and planning board.

The options are limited and come down to three choices:

• Revote the project, believing that the plan could be approved the second time around;

• Request an additional two to three months to explore whether the town would consider a revote;

• Withdraw from the process, leaving $14 million in state reimbursement money on the table.

Only the current project that has been developed using some $800,000 in feasibility study money can be considered, Mrs. McAndrews explained. A second vote would need to take place by mid-June in order to meet a 120-day time period laid out by the MSBA that began in February.

The school gymnasium was full of divided opinions over how to proceed, and the meeting was marked by angst, anger and an appeal for all sides to find common ground. The Tisbury selectmen were criticized for their lack of leadership. Mrs. McAndrews urged the room to look forward, not back.

“This has been a divided process, but this is where we are. We’ve got to leave behind all the baggage,” she said.

Vineyard schools superintendent Matthew D’Andrea urged the town to take more time to consider the options.

School building committee chairman Colleen McAndrews (center) led meeting. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“I feel strongly that the town should at least ask for two to three months,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “I fear if we go back to square one, nothing is going to happen . . . It’s $14 million [in reimbursement money] that the town would be turning away from . . . and I fear in the end you’re going to get a lesser school for more money.”

Tisbury school principal John Custer agreed.

“I suggest we take a little more time,” he said.

Many comments underscored the divisive nature of the issue.

“In my mind there were two votes taken and it’s now tied,” said school committee member Amy Houghton. “If there’s no effort for the town to come together and see if they can do something . . . we want to be a community but the way this has happened and the fallout . . . it doesn’t feel like a community,” she said.

Finance committee chairman Jeff Kristal said his takeaway from the vote was different. “What I heard was our taxes are too high and we can’t afford this,” he said. “I heard we need to do a better job to reduce the tax rate.”

But planning board chairman Dan Seidman said voters had spoken against the new school, adding that he believed the vote would have failed on the town meeting floor if it had gone to an Australian ballot.

“If this had gone the other way I don’t think we would be sitting here talking about a revote,” Mr. Seidman said.

Planning board member Elaine Miller took sharp aim at the selectmen.

Packed school gymnasium saw many divided opinions. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“I’m looking to our leaders on this,” she said. “I don’t deal with suggestions, I deal with facts . . . I am prepared to go in this next direction but I want it identified clearly . . . as we procrastinate on a project that we knew needed to be addressed in 2012 and we sit here passing the buck. I want to hear from our leaders.”

The three selectmen offered no clear position, but said they had scheduled a meeting Thursday to discuss the matter. Town administrator John (Jay) Grande confirmed that only the selectmen can call a special election.

The meeting ran for nearly three hours and many residents and voters stood to speak. Part way through the meeting, the elementary school band began rehearsing in a room nearby, and the music filtered in.

Opponents of the school project bristled at the suggestion of a second vote.

“I am angry and insulted that you 20 people would presume to usurp the democratic vote of the townspeople,” said Tony Peak, addressing the school building committee. “People voted no. It doesn’t matter why they voted no.”

There also were conciliatory notes.

Len Morris thanked the committee for its work and acknowledged the reality of small-town democracy. “People show up at the last minute and that’s the way the Vineyard works,” he said.

“If this project is going to happen in our town it has to be a collaboration,” said Reade Milne, a member of the building committee. “We all live here and we need to find a solution. We’re all sitting here talking about what is a good first step and instead it feels like a last-ditch effort.”

In the end the building committee voted 14-2 to ask the MSBA for two to three more months to consider options. Selectman Melinda Loberg and Mr. Grande, who both sit on the building committee, voted no.

Mrs. McAndrews acknowledged that the next steps are unclear.

“This didn’t really get us far,” she said.