After being denied six times, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School has been recommended for acceptance into the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s highly competitive grant program, offering the six Island towns strong incentive to work out their differences over the funding formula.

The news was delivered Wednesday to Martha’s Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. Matthew D’Andrea in a phone call from Kate DeCristofaro, a representative of the MSBA.

“We’re one of 17 schools who have been recommended to the [MSBA] board,” high school committee chairman Amy Houghton told the Gazette.

The finalists were winnowed down from 56 submissions reviewed earlier this month by the MSBA’s applications committee, which typically approves between 11 and 17 schools a year to be comprehensively overhauled, according to the authority’s chief executive, Jack McCarthy.

The building authority board meets March 2 to officially approve the schools’ acceptance into the program, which provides about 38 per cent of most costs to rebuild or replace a school.

Funded by $.01 cent from every 6.25 cents in the state’s sales tax, the program also offers school building expertise as well as resources for financing and procurement that are not easily available to individual districts.

Built in 1959, the high school was last upgraded in 1995. For the past six years, the MSBA has denied efforts by the high school to get on the eligibility list for funding, citing a lack of unity among the six Island towns. This year, school officials hoped to demonstrate Islandwide support for the project by asking each of the six towns to sign a joint letter promising a “good faith effort to support a building project.”

But the Oak Bluffs select board, which contends that the enrollment-based high school funding formula fails to recognize the cost to the town of hosting the high school and other non-tax-generating properties, instead sent a letter of its own to the MSBA.

While echoing the other towns’ support for a new regional high school, the Oak Bluffs letter spells out the select board’s conditions: “We are also committed, that if accepted into the MSBA grant program, that we will make every good faith effort to support the funding of the feasibility study for such project; however, for our town, the funding formula, especially as it relates to this large capital project, will need to be discussed and agreed to as the statutory formula currently in use is, in our opinion, unfairly weighted against our town (and a few others),” the letter signed by board chairman Ryan Ruley reads, in part.

Mr. D’Andrea said the MSBA has made it clear that the Vineyard will have to come together over the next few months, before the program officially begins Sept. 1.

“Between now and Sept. 1, they want us to work on getting agreement with the towns on the funding formula and making sure that they’re all ready to participate and support a building project,” he said.

The first step in the building process will be for towns to approve a feasibility study of the high school campus, to determine the scope of potential construction. Mr. D’Andrea said the MSBA timeline gives Island towns until the end of May 2023 to vote in favor of the feasibility study, the cost of which will be determined over the months to come.

The cost of the school project itself is only a guess until the feasibility study is completed, Mr. D’Andrea said. While a ballpark figure of $100 million has been used, it’s essentially a placeholder.

“That number got kind of adopted as the number. Who knows where it’s going to land,” he said.

Islanders will have their say in the matter, Mr. D’Andrea said.

“There will be all kinds of forums with parents and the community and staff and students,” he said. “Everybody gets a chance to weigh in ... Ultimately the community, in partnership with the building committee, [will determine] what to bring to voters.”

A school building committee has yet to be formed, Mr. D’Andrea said, but school officials expect to get a better idea of the project timeline when he, Ms. Houghton and high school principal Sara Dingledy take part in a training session with the MSBA next week.