Three years ago, this month, on the eve of a vote for the Tisbury School’s fate, a group of 14 Vineyard Haven residents co-authored a letter to the editor (Opponents Press for Alternative Plan, 4/19/18). The group consisted of many elected and appointed town officials — select people, members of the planning board, finance committee, an appointee to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and many other esteemed townspeople. A letter penned by a group such as this would carry considerable weight with voters.

Their message was clear: if we vote no, we will spend less money. Whereas I disagreed with many points within the letter, I respected their right to share their opinion. Differing thoughts and open dialogue produce major decisions and shape policy — the true essence of our democracy.

The letter conveniently failed to mention that by voting no, the town was forfeiting over $14 million in state assistance that took years to secure. The process to obtain these funds is highly competitive, and there would be no guarantee they would be available to us in the future. There are no guarantees when you come hat in hand. Just a spot at the back of the line and a chance.

The townspeople heeded the advice and voted no. We have spent over $1 million on feasibility studies, and missed valuable in-school learning time triaging the building of problems of which we all were aware. At one point the town split the student body in half, sending middle schoolers to the high school while cobbling together makeshift classrooms for the elementary students.

In the last three years, the owner’s project manager has priced out two separate addition/renovation plans for the school, coming in at $52 and $55 million, respectively. Had the vote gone in the other direction, construction would already be underway for a brand-new school at a cost of $32 million to taxpayers.

On June 13, the townspeople will come together at a special town meeting to debate this issue. However, the time is now for open public dialogue. Eleventh-hour letters to the editor with dubious claims of a cheaper, better product allow no time for scrutiny and discussion, accomplishing little while creating confusion, distrust, and division.

So, what say you Tisbury 14? It is a forgone conclusion that significant work needs to happen on the school. The building committee, sent back to the drawing board, produced the new addition/renovation project requested. You used this forum once before — time to do it again and let the taxpayers know your thoughts.

Do you support the project or not?

Steve Kelly

Vineyard Haven