A divided Tisbury School building committee voted eight to one on Monday to move ahead with a $55 million plan to renovate the town elementary school, despite anxiety over how to pay for the project.

The strain on committee members was evident at a Zoom meeting Monday night that ran for more than three hours, with one member expressing concern about the cost of the project and frustration at the workings of the decision-making group, while the committee chairman quietly fought back tears.

Cost estimates for the project were released by the architect last week for renovating the 90-year-old, asbestos and lead-tainted building and expanding it to meet the school’s educational program.

The stakes are high. Spending for a $46.6 million school reconstruction, with matching funds from the state, failed by 21 votes at the ballot box in 2018, despite a wide margin of approval at the preceding annual town meeting.

“A big part of that was the constituency wanted to preserve the original building,” committee member Harold Chapdelaine said during Monday’s meeting.

The town is now moving ahead on its own to renovate and add on to the school — without the state match, but with plans to exploit as much outside funding as possible to keep the local tax burden low.

“If the community wants this school, it’s up to us to find a way to make it financially viable for all the taxpayers,” said committee member James Rogers, who also sits on the town select board.

At a meeting Tuesday afternoon the select board voted to hire a financial specialist to research grants and other funding for the building project.

And while the Monday school building committee meeting ended with a vote in favor of proceeding with the conceptual design from Tappé Architects, it began on a fractious note.

“Fifty-five million dollars is more than our community has said it wanted to spend,” said Reade Milne, an architect and Tisbury School parent who serves on the committee.

“We need to give our design team a budget,” Ms. Reade said. “I don’t see why we continue down this path. This is still a contentious project.”

Ms. Reade also charged the group with failing to work together effectively.

“We are completely divided,” she said. “We are all in our own camps . . . I just really wish we could do trust falls with each other, because I think that’s what we need.”

Chairman Rachel Orr responded. “Reade, I completely hear you about the challenging dynamics in our committee. Those have been a struggle for me, too,” she said, choking back a tear as she added: “Obviously.”

After composing herself, Ms. Orr continued, “To move forward, we have to trust and appreciate one another.”

Other committee members reminded Ms. Milne that their mission statement holds them to presenting voters with a renovation and addition plan that meets the needs of the school’s educational program, without reference to cost.

“We cannot let the budget drive the project,” Mr. Rogers said. “The project has to drive the budget . . . We’re all aware that it’s not going to get cheaper. We need to show leadership on this.”

Committee member Michael Watts, who with Mr. Rogers was scheduled to give a brief presentation on the school project at the June 13 annual town meeting before the committee was unaccountably left off the warrant, argued the same point.

“If you want a smaller building, cut the educational program,” Mr. Watts said. “That’s not what we’re going to do.”

Some members of the public in attendance urged the committee to consider alternatives to the Tappé design concept, details of which are posted online.

Tisbury residents Anna Edey and Dan Seidman both said they had submitted designs of their own, while resident Paul Lazes said the detailed architectural questions he submitted last week had not been answered.

Mr. Rogers said state laws sharply restrict who may design a public building. “There are restrictions in Massachusetts General Law . . . limitations on who can submit designs,” he said. “We can’t have the public submitting designs because that’s against the law for a public building.”

“This is not a barn raising,” Mr. Chapdelaine added. “This isn’t a community design process. This is us steering the ship, with community input.” The nine-member committee voted in favor of direecting the architects to proceed with a design dubbed Option 3, roughly estimated to cost $55 million in 2021 dollars. Ms. Orr was the lone nay vote.

Public forums on the proposed design have been on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Ms. Orr said she has found a technology platform that will allow for a virtual forum.

“I saw a way to do it that was organized and orderly and reasonable,” said Ms. Orr. The two-hour event should take place in about two weeks, she added. Details will be posted at the school building project website.

The building committee meets Mondays at 5 p.m. on Zoom.