Voters advise Westport, E’town-Lewis school merger

Residents in two school districts here gave the green light Tuesday for centralization to go up for a final vote.

Voter turnout topped a total 1,000 in the Westport and Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School districts for the non-binding advisory referendum that capped months of meetings on the matter.

The measure passed 357-198 in Westport with one ballot voided and 399-73 in Elizabethtown-Lewis.

Exit surveys asked such questions as how the voter learned about the advisory vote, whether they had voted “yes” or “no” and if they are parents.

It also offered space for comments.

“Community has spoken”

School boards from both districts voted unanimously in September to move forward with the advisory vote after results of a study on merging the two districts.

If it had failed, the idea of consolidation would have been halted.

“It appears that a strong majority of our school community residents are in favor of the proposal to merge our school with Westport Central School District,” ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne said of the result.

WCS Interim Superintendent Josh Meyer agreed that “the community has spoken.”

“I look forward to continuing to work with Westport Central School and the Westport community to move forward with the merger process and [striving] for excellence in education,” he said, while also praising the high turnout for the vote.

“That’s almost double what we typically get for a budget [vote], so that’s fantastic,” he said.

December vote next

Because it passed, voters will go to the polls again on Tuesday, Dec. 4, for a binding referendum on whether the districts should merge. They will also weigh in on the composition of a new school board.

If that referendum also supports merger, the election of new board members would take place in January 2019, and the first operating day of the new district would be July 1.

The elementary grades would stay in their current buildings, Westport would host the middle-school grades, and the high school would be housed at ELCS in Elizabethtown.

Study reports

Advantages of a centralization, officials from both districts, along with their school boards, include, over time, stabilization and perhaps lowering of school taxes.

Strengthening programs is another expectation, “perhaps with an eye on restoring many of the elective classes and courses eliminated in each district since 2000,” ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne said earlier.

Merger Study reports are available at: elcsd.org or westportcs.org, or in the respective school offices.

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