Schematic Design Phase


1. What is being proposed?
The proposed school project includes the design and construction of a 75,390 square foot school serving grades pre-K through 8th grade, on the east side of the current school’s 5+ acre site located at 40 West William Street. The existing school will remain in use until the new building is completed, to reduce the impact on the students and faculty during construction.
2. Who are the members of the Tisbury School Building Committee (TSBC) and what is the goal for the school project?
The Tisbury School Building Committee has 17 voting members and 2 non-voting members from both the school and community, and was formed based on the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) regulations.

The TSBC voting members include: two (2) Planning Board representatives, one (1) Selectman, one (1) Town Administrator, one (1) Finance Committee representative, two (2) Designers, two (2) representatives from Construction Trades, two (2) School Administrators, two (2) School Teachers, one (1) School Advisory Committee representative, one (1) School Committee representative, one (1) PTO Representative and one (1) School Business Administrator.

The responsibility of the TSBC is to serve as representatives of the Town, to make certain that all processes follow MSBA guidelines and requirements, and to identify the most educationally appropriate and cost-effective solution for the Tisbury School and the Town of Tisbury.

3. Who/What is the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA)?
The Massachusetts School Building Authority is a quasi-independent government authority created in 2004 to replace the former school building assistance program administered by the Department of Education (now the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). The MSBA works with local communities to create affordable, sustainable, and energy efficient schools across Massachusetts. It is overseen by a Board of Directors, chaired by State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg which meets six times per year to approve projects through a diligent voting process ensuring that the available funds are distributed in a responsible and fair manner.  The MSBA’s share of projects is funded through 1 cent per dollar spent in Massachusetts as part of the sales tax levy on all goods sold in the Commonwealth,

The MSBA is focused on achieving the mission of partnering with communities to support the design and construction of educationally-appropriate, flexible, sustainable, and cost-effective public school facilities.

4. What is the cost of the project?
The estimated total cost for the Tisbury School project is $46,567, 962

The MSBA construction grant is 44.28% of eligible projects costs, which is estimated to be $14,581,442.
The Town of Tisbury’s share of the project cost is estimated to be $31,986,520.

5. What is the cost per square-foot for the new Tisbury School?
The average cost per square-foot, based on estimated construction costs or “hard costs” is $500/SF.

The cost per square-foot for the Tisbury project can largely be attributed to three major factors:

  • Increases in materials and labor costs over the past 4 years.
  • The robust construction market over the past 3 years has led to a reduction in available labor force and higher overall costs for construction.
  • The “island factor” based on higher costs for contractors and subcontractors to transport materials, equipment, and personnel to the island during construction.

As reported by the MSBA, the estimated average cost for school construction projects to be built in 2019 ranges from $420/SF to $630/SF, which places the Tisbury School project in the middle of the projected range.

6. What is the potential tax impact?
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue requires that the District appropriate and authorize the total Project cost, including both the District’s and the MSBA’s share; however, the District will only have to borrow for its portion. The Town of Tisbury is anticipated to borrow $32,000,000; which represents its share of the total project costs, after reimbursement from the MSBA grant.

For a 20-year bond, the average increase in residential taxes is estimated to be $108.20 for every $100,000 of assessed property value (see chart below).

Assessed Property Value Avg. increase in annual residential taxes – in the first year
$400,000 $432.80
$515,900 (Median Year-Round Property Value) $558.00
$600,000 $649.20
$700,000 $757.40
$800,000 $865.60
* out of 351 municipalities, Tisbury’s tax rate is the 30th lowest in the state.
Tax Impact – School Project Debt – Median Home Value
7. Why do we need a new Tisbury School?
The existing school building has reached the end of its useful life and no longer meets the requirements of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s standards or the students and community of Tisbury.

Town and School leaders and community representatives have been discussing the schools’ future and studying potential plans for improvement for more than four years. Today, we are at a crossroad and need to address three (3) major challenges:

  • Overcrowding
  • Lack of space and resources to provide the full scope of services consistent with State and Local educational requirements and meet the educational needs of a diversified student body
  • Deficiencies in major building systems, including mechanical and electrical
8. How will a new school benefit Tisbury?
  • MSBA funding for this project will allow Tisbury to build this facility for less than 70% of the total cost and provide the most fiscally responsible, long-term solution.
  • Properly sized classrooms and flexible learning spaces that support current teaching methodologies and student engagement.
  • New, energy efficient building systems will reduce the school’s impact on the island’s environment.
  • Larger, accessible spaces (library/media center, cafeteria, gymnasium, auditorium) that can be used by the community.
  • The new school will have a “village green” feel with play areas, gardens, a basketball court, and sports field for community use.
  • Providing the full scope of educational services consistent with State and Local requirements and meet the educational needs of current and future students.
9. Why Build Now? What’s the Rush?
The TSBC, in collaboration with the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Finance Committee, and Vision Council, have carefully studied all of the options for improving the school building over the past four years. The recommended solution of partnering with the MSBA to build a new school was given a considerable amount of study, discussion, and opportunities for the public to comment throughout the process.

The TSBC’s goal is to provide both a fiscally and educationally responsible solution to meet our school’s needs. On February 14, 2018 the Tisbury School project received unanimous approval from the MSBA Board of Directors and approval from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. With this approval, the Tisbury School project has been given the opportunity to take advantage of more than $14 million dollars in state funding to improve our school.

Per MSBA regulations, the Town of Tisbury is given 120 days from the date of approval to secure funding for the project. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue requires that the District appropriate and authorize the total Project cost, including both the District’s and the MSBA’s share; however, the District will only have to borrow for its portion.

Without the implementation of a solution to our school’s current challenges, the Town of Tisbury will still be responsible for providing solutions to the issues of overcrowding, lack of space and resources to meet State and Local requirements for educational programs and support, and replacement of major building systems.

10. Why didn’t SBC choose renovation/addition option? Why not just renovate the existing building?
 The original 1929 section of the building has been thoroughly investigated by the Architectural Team and specialists. They have determined that less than 35% of the building is salvageable due to structural issues and required upgrades to meet current building codes. Additionally, repairs to the existing building and the later building additions would not solve the issues of overcrowding and educational programming requirements. Earlier building studies – that have previously been referred to – were “surface” studies and did not include an in-depth investigation of the structural capacity and compliance with current building codes.In accordance with MSBA Feasibility Study requirements, the TSBC and the project team (including the Architect and Owner’s Project Manager) conducted a detailed study of options and costs for Repair, Renovation, Renovation/Expansion, and New Construction. The new construction option was studied in multiple possible locations, including the Tashmoo Well site and the Manter Well site. The group conducted a careful examination of all the possible benefits and potential risks, as well as overall project cost, for each option over the course of more than six months. A brief of the results were as follows:

  • Repair: would not solve the issues of overcrowding and providing all required educational programs
  • Renovation: would not solve the issues of overcrowding and providing all required educational programs.
  • Renovation/Expansion: highest estimated overall cost of construction, highest potential risk, most disruption to school operations (students would have to be moved to modular classrooms during construction)
  • New Construction: lower cost compared to renovation/expansion, lower risk compared to renovation/expansion, least amount of disruption to school operations (students would remain in the existing building throughout construction of the new building), best option for building design and layout to meet space and educational program requirements, best option for building to be designed with sustainable elements/reduce environmental impact of school building.

For the new construction options, the Tashmoo Well site and Manter Well site were not selected as a result of concerns from the TSBC and the overall community about the environmental impact, the loss of the school campus as a central location within the community, and an estimated higher cost.

At the conclusion of the study, it was agreed that the option for new construction on the existing school site (at 40 West William Street) was the most fiscally and educationally appropriate solution.

11. How will the new school be different than the existing building?
The new building has been designed for small clusters of learning within the larger school, with a range of spaces to facilitate creative learning environments ranging from contemplative to collaborative scales.

  • Small School Feel:
    Small clusters of learning within the larger school, with a range of spaces to facilitate creative learning environments ranging from contemplative to collaborative scales. This is accommodated through a three story “L” shaped plan that accommodates not more than four grades per story and not more than five classrooms in a cluster.
  • Properly sized classrooms:
    The new school will have the necessary number and size of classrooms to meet standards set by the MSBA and meet the needs for providing education at a level commensurate with modern teaching and learning.
  • Space Flexibility:
    Classroom clusters are situated with small break out spaces, collaborative project areas, expandable classrooms, and special needs resource spaces close by.
  • Outdoor Learning:
    The new school will provide a range of spaces from contemplative to collaborative, passive to active, structured to unstructured. The site and building accommodates a range of spaces, from gardens, play equipment areas, hard surface play areas, open grassy fields, vegetated park-like settings, courtyards and plazas. In addition to outdoor areas at the ground level, two roof top classrooms are accommodated, one adjacent to the Art Room on the second floor and one adjacent to the Technology Lab on the third floor, with access also from the common corridor
  • Shared spaces and resources:
    Centrally located resources for equal accessibility from all core academic spaces, such as grade specific special instruction spaces, to be close by to the students served. The largest shared spaces are at the ground floor and play the dual role of being both shared within the school community and with the larger community beyond the school as well. These include the Gymnasium and Cafeteria along with program areas closely associated with each.
  • Public Access:
    The Tisbury School is a community school, and serves many community functions. The desire is for the new building to continue to serve the community as it does now, but to allow greater opportunities for community building and collaboration. Central to this goal is the large gathering space in the inner lobby, which serves as a welcoming place for parents to gather within the school, a space which is severely lacking presently. This space also serves as a flexible learning space, for school or outside community programs. A separate entrance at the north side of the building facing Spring Street, and adjacent to the majority of parking provides a dedicated community access point for after-hour uses of the shared spaces within the building, with the ability to secure the classroom and administration areas during public use.
    Additionally, the site has been designed to include areas for both school use as well as community use. A park-like vegetated setting close in to the building accommodates passive recreation, and informal learning. The site will include a lower grade-level play area, garden, other hard surface play areas (basketball court), and grassy fields (including a soccer/sports field). The entire site is intended to read as a single green spine/common, extending out from the formal front of the building.
  • Enhanced Security:
    The new building will include intrusion detection systems, video surveillance, access control systems with the capability to lock down the building, proper “shelter in place” with decreasing visibility controls for highly visible classrooms in the interior and at ground level, all security measures tied to uninterruptable power supply system and generator, and improved access for first responders.
  • Improved Vehicle Access and Parking:
    Dedicated bus drop-off/pick-up area (accessible from Spring Street), separate dedicated parent drop-off/pick-up area (accessible from West William Street), increased total number of parking spaces (total 101 spaces) across two parking areas accessible via Spring Street and one parking area accessible via West William Street.
  • Sustainable Design / Environmental Efficiency:
    The new building focuses on resilience in a challenging climate coupled with a providing a warm and welcoming learning environment. It will contain energy saving technology to support the long term financial goals of the community, acknowledging island’s enthusiasm for ecologically friendly design and construction. Sustainability involves all aspects of the building, indoors and out, and include energy and water use reduction, improved air quality, the use of natural light/daylighting, a selection of construction materials that are US Green Building Council recognized to be “responsibly extracted and manufactured”, the use of native plants in landscaping, and staff/occupant training in the efficient use of the building’s mechanical systems.
12. How was the decision made about enrollment? Will there be enough room in the new school for our student population? Will the new school be too big for the number of students we have? Why build a new school when enrollment is declining?
The “certified enrollment” of 285 students for the Tisbury School project was determined by the MSBA. The number is slightly lower than the school’s current enrollment of 299, due to a projected decline in school enrollment over the next 10 years.

The new Tisbury School has been designed to meet the needs and capacity for both the current enrollment and project enrollment by including two classrooms per grade level to ensure smaller class sizes. The project team has carefully managed the design of the building to reduce the overall square-footage, while making sure that all spaces meet the requirements of the educational program. Much needed specialty education and resource rooms have been added – which are not currently available in the existing building – to meet the needs of state required education programs (e.g. SPED, ELL, OT/PT, etc.). Larger shared spaces (e.g. cafeteria and gymnasium) will have a positive impact and an anticipated increase in use by the students as well as the overall community.

The new building will be managed and operated more efficiently than the existing building, leading to an overall reduction in anticipated maintenance and repair costs and a lower environmental impact. 

13. How was the plan for the new building developed?
The MSBA sets out specific guidelines and requirements for each phase of the study and design process. They are broken out in to “Modules” and details required within each module can be viewed on their website at

Here is an overview of the project timeline:

April 2015 Town of Tisbury submitted the Statement of Interest to the MSBA
January 2016 The MSBA invites the Town of Tisbury in to the “Eligibility Period” (Tisbury was one of 8 schools to be selected out of 96 applicants) – Feasibility Study begins
April 2016 Town of Tisbury votes to approve funds for the feasibility study
September 2016 TSBC selects and MSBA approves OPM
December 2016 TSBC selects and MSBA approves Designer
January 2017 – June 2017 Feasibility Study is conducted and completed
April 2017 – June 2017 The TSBC hosted nine (9) community forums and presentations and two (2) surveys to get public feedback and opinion
July 2017 TSBC presents findings of Feasibility Study to Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, and the William Street Historic District Commission
August 2017 MSBA approves Feasibility Study Submission and votes to move the Tisbury School project into the Schematic Design phase.
September 2017 – December 2017 TSBC and project Team complete the Schematic Design phase. TSBC hosts tours of the existing school building and a public presentation
January 2018 Schematic Design Submission submitted to MSBA for review and comments
February 2018 MSBA approves Schematic Design Submission and votes to execute a Project Scope and Budget Agreement with a maximum estimated Total Facilities Grant of $14,792,718
April 10th, 2018 Tisbury Annual Town Meeting * Vote to fund design and construction for the new Tisbury School project *
April 24th, 2018 Tisbury Town Election / Ballot Vote * Vote to fund design and construction for the new Tisbury School project *
14. Does this process require voter approval?
 Yes. Tisbury voters must approve the school project at the Annual Town Meeting on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, by a 2/3 majority vote, as well as a majority vote at the ballot on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
15. What does a ‘Yes’ vote mean?
 If the new Tisbury School project receives the necessary votes at both Town Meeting and the Ballot Vote, the MSBA will invite the Town of Tisbury to enter in to a Project Funding Agreement followed by the completion of the design phase.

The project is anticipated to begin construction in May 2019. New school construction is expected to be complete by January 2021; students and school faculty and staff are anticipated to move in to the new building in February 2021 with project completion expected by August 2021.

16. What does a ‘No’ vote mean?
 If a District is unwilling to make the commitment at Town Meeting to approve the funding for the project, the MSBA has a responsibility to the Commonwealth to move forward with another project that can demonstrate that commitment.Per the Massachusetts School Building Authority “a failed local vote likely will result in the school district being required to submit a new Statement of Interest to the MSBA and await an invitation to enter the Eligibility Period of the MSBA’s process.”

There is a risk of the potential loss of more than $14 Million in state funding, without a guarantee that the school district will be invited back in to the Eligibility Phase.

Additionally, the school district will still be required to provide solutions to address the issues of overcrowding/lack of space, the replacement of mechanical systems in the existing building, and services/spaces to meet state & local educational requirements.

17. Who can I contact if I have any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns?
Please reach out to the Tisbury School Building Committee. The TSBC has worked closely with Town Boards and Committees to keep all stakeholders updated on the school project. The TSBC meets approximately twice a month and all TSBC meetings are open to the public.

Please visit the “Events & Meetings” page of the project website for information about upcoming meetings or public presentations and forums:

Learn more about the project by: