The question of whether to fund the design phase of the high school track and field renovation project is now up to the six Island towns, following an animated school committee discussion Monday.

In December, the school committee voted to spend $350,000 in excess and deficiency (E and D) funds on design work for the new track and field project, and in February voted 5-4 in favor of a plan to rebuild the school athletic fields, using artificial turf for the main field and natural grass for five other fields.

However, earlier this month superintendent of schools Dr. Matthew D’Andrea said the committee had bypassed a requirement to seek permission from voters to use E and D funds for the project.

The committee was divided over whether to send the existing request to the towns or to amend it. In the end the committee voted 6-3 to send the request to the towns with the current language, advocating artificial turf for the field within the track. Three representatives from the up-Island regional school district — Roxane Ackerman, Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd and Robert Lionette ­— voted against sending the existing request to the towns.

Towns now have 45 days to call a special town meeting to vote on using the funds for design work. If a town does not hold a vote, they are assumed to be in support of the spending. Four of the six towns need to approve the funds in order for the project to go forward.

Decision over whether to change language recommending artificial turf before sending to a town vote stirred debate. — Holly Pretsky

Some school committee members were concerned that the towns may reject the spending because the plan calls for an artificial turf infield, not natural grass. The surface material question has stalled the track overhaul for more than three years as the community weighs athletic interests with environmental concerns.

“This 350 is for documents that include a much more expensive infield, an infield that’s very controversial, an infield that’s probably going to spark a number of towns to carry on a vote, which will extend this process much further,” said school committee member Robert Lionette, who voted against the turf plan last month.

“I share much of Robert’s concern about this being blocked and us facing a long road of trying to get this through,” said Amy Houghton, who also voted against the plan last month. “If we vote this today and it gets voted down by the towns, I want to know that we’ve got another plan.”

Multiple committee members and community members who attended the late-night meeting advocated for sticking with the plan the committee voted for in February, calling for consistency and leadership.

“We hired a landscape architect who is an expert with years of experience in field maintenance, drainage, environmental impact,” said Kim Kirk. “Are we going to continue to go down this path [of deferring the project] when we have a plan that’s been vetted, that has been recommended by our administration, and that could move forward?”

Some at the meeting acknowledged the environmental concerns around installing a plastic field on the Island, but said those concerns fall under the jurisdiction of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, which is also expected to review the project.

“I’m not a conservationist. I’m not somebody who knows conservation, but we’ll let somebody like the MVC make the final decision because that’s their job,” said Janet Packer. “Our job is to provide resources and avenues for kids who are part of track... theatre, music, whatever you want to say, our job is to see that they have whatever it is they need.”

In a similar vote, the committee unanimously decided to ask towns for permission to use some $316,000 in excess and deficiency funds to go toward designs for a high school building overhaul. The superintendent is also asking towns for $1.1 million in warrant articles to design a new school facility.