The Tisbury School will receive the extra $26 million needed to complete its renovation and addition project, after voters backed the borrowing measure 373-112 at a special town meeting Tuesday night.

Nearly 500 voters checked in for the meeting at the regional high school performing arts center in Oak Bluffs, according to an unofficial tally from town clerk Hillary Conklin.

Tisbury has about 3,700 registered voters and a town meeting quorum of 100.

In June, 2021 a $55 million Prop. 2 1/2 override for the school passed by 237-5 at the town meeting and 821-224 at the ballot box. The town sought permission to borrow the additional $25,610,841 after estimated costs soared by more than 50 per cent due to inflation, which Tisbury school committee chair Amy Houghton said is affecting other communities as well.

Tisbury school committee chair Amy Houghton gives the thumbs up after the results come in.

“The town of Oak Bluffs just completed their town hall and the cost per square foot for that building was $900. The current Chilmark fire station project is approximately $1,300 a square foot,” Ms. Houghton told the assembled voters, urging a yes vote.

The Tisbury School project will enlarge the 56,000-square-foot school to 70,000 square feet, town administrator Jay Grande said. The total project budget is $81,843,284.

Along with Ms. Houghton, Mr. Grande and other town and school officials who answered questions about the project, more than a dozen voters spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, which was held at the high school because the Tisbury School gym is being dismantled and the town has no other suitable gathering place.

“We are making history this evening, or at least in modern times. The town of Tisbury is convening a town meeting outside its jurisdiction,” town moderator Deborah Medders said after opening the proceedings at 7:25 p.m.

Several of the voters who spoke opposed the additional borrowing, saying the school project should instead be scaled back or re-started to save money and energy.

“A yes vote will saddle many in our community with an untenable debt,” said planning board chair Ben Robinson, who also objected to the lack of renewable energy systems in the school project’s design.

Nearly 500 voters turned out for the meeting. — Ray Ewing

“Say no, and open up a different kind of conversation,” Mr. Robinson said.

Homeowner Don Keller said he’d rather see an all-new school than a retrofit of the current structure, originally built in 1929.

“To me, it’s not about the money, it’s about the future. I’m voting no,” Mr. Keller said.

Project opponent Marie Laursen spoke bitterly about the town’s decision, backed by the state department of revenue, not to hold a ballot box vote on the $26 million request.

“This end run around the taxpayers is wrong,” Ms. Laursen said. “It sets an uneasy precedent and deprives any taxpayer who is not here tonight from having a say on the matter.”

Lorraine Wells took the opposing view.

Paper votes were tallied by hand. — Ray Ewing

“Town meeting is democracy. People choose to come or not come to town meeting the way they choose to come or not come to an election,” Ms. Wells said.

“I don’t believe that town meeting is autocratic. We are here to have our say,” she concluded.

On a motion by Ms. Laursen, the meeting voted 252 to 197 in favor of using paper ballots for the borrowing article.

The debate continued as more speakers urged their neighbors to vote in favor of the article.

“This is Plan B. We had a Plan A that was defeated,” Alex Meleney said, referring to an earlier school project that failed by a narrow margin at the ballot box after approval at town meeting.

“Every time we vote these down the cost doesn’t go down, it goes up,” Mr. Meleney said.

Rachel Wild speaks in favor of approving the funding. — Ray Ewing

Identifying herself as a Tisbury School graduate as well as the parent of a second-grader there, Rachel Wild enthusiastically appealed for yes votes.

“It’s not fair to our students to be deprived, [and] if we don’t do it now, what are we going to do?” Ms. Wild said. “Support our Tisbury Tigers.”

Advancing two rows at a time, voters were handed yellow slips pre-printed with YES and NO to tear in two before placing their chosen vote in the ballot box and discarding the other half.

Many voters then headed straight for the door instead of the seats where they’d spent the past two-plus hours, leaving a die-hard crew of school and town officials, construction managers and media to hear the results from Ms. Medders shortly after 10:30 p.m.

With the approval, work will resume at the school gym first thing Wednesday, said Christina Opper of Daedalus/CHA, the longterm owner’s project manager for the Tisbury School.

“We don’t have any time to waste,” Ms. Opper said.

Students and staff are expected to move into temporary modular classrooms on campus in November so that work can begin on the main school building.