A legal opinion, written to clarify the legitimacy of anonymous cash donations to Island schools, instead sowed more dissension at this week’s meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee.

Superintendent of schools Dr. Richard Smith told committee members Monday night that the three-page opinion from Murphy Lamere and Murphy, longtime attorneys for the Island school system, confirms that schools may legally accept and spend anonymous cash donations.

“Massachusetts law allows for the use of anonymous donations for the payment of legal fees and any other lawful expenditure,” Mr. Smith said.

The issue arose over the summer when an anonymous donor contributed $2,000 and a named donor gave $3,000 on behalf of himself and unidentified friends, with both donations earmarked for the district’s legal fight with Oak Bluffs over an artificial turf field.

On Monday, high school committee member Robert Lionette had a different interpretation of the document, which has not been made public.

“It’s my read that the donor has to be identified, and there’s some criteria established for that identification in this letter, so that’s not anonymous,” Mr. Lionette said.

Committee member Mike Watts said he didn’t read the opinion the way Mr. Lionette did.

“That being said, I don’t understand why we repeatedly seek counsel and choose not to follow their advice,” Mr. Watts said.

“We’ve been told the same thing twice. And despite what they’ve said, the criticism in public is extremely strong, saying we’re acting illegally, we’re taking drug money, we’re criminals,” Mr. Watts said.

The committee voted unanimously to ask Murphy, Lamere and Murphy to explain the written decision at a public meeting to be scheduled this month.

Also Monday, the committee heard a report from high school principal Sara Dingledy on tardy student arrivals.

A bottleneck at the schoolhouse door causes late check-ins every day, even for students who arrive on time, Ms. Dingledy said. The problem is largely caused by students who are dropped off by car just before the start of the school day at 7:40 a.m.

Chronic absenteeism — defined as 10 or more days of unexcused absences — is another problem at the high school, rising from as low as 9 per cent before the pandemic to 26 per cent last year, Ms. Dingledy said.

The rate dropped slightly this year, to 25 per cent, she said.

“We’re still well ahead of our neighboring districts,” she said.

The school is now sending regular attendance reports to all students’ families, assistant principal Jeremy Light said, so parents can be aware of their children’s attendance records.

“It’s been a nice tool... to open up communication with some families,” Mr. Light said.

Among other business, the high school committee unanimously approved wrestling as a co-ed varsity sport beginning with the current season.

Wrestling has been a club sport for two years and coach Jerry Kadien says he now has more than 40 wrestlers, including two girls.

Expenses for the team will eventually be borne by its newly-established booster club, but Ms. Dingledy said she will use some proceeds from a new state grant to purchase wrestling mats.