ELIZABETHTOWN — Residents of Elizabethtown-Lewis and Westport school districts will decide next month whether the possibility of merger will move to a binding vote.
School boards for both districts voted this week to move ahead with community advisory votes.
Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School Board was first to vote, deciding 5-0 Wednesday night to schedule a public referendum from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the conference room at the school.
On Thursday night, Westport Central School Board voted 4-0 to move ahead with its advisory referendum.
Westport School Board Vice President Jim Carroll was not in attendance, but Interim Superintendent Joshua Meyer, who is also principal, said Carroll sent "a letter of support stating that had he been there, he would have voted to approve the referendum."
Westport's public advisory vote will be held from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the hallway outside Bulles Auditorium.
The advisory referendum is an informal "straw vote" to be held in each school district separately, School Superintendent Scott Osborne explained in a statement.
The ballot question will read: “Should the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School District and the Westport Central School District be joined together as a single district by centralization (merger)?”
If the advisory referendum passes in both districts, a formal binding public referendum will be held Tuesday, Dec. 4.
If the advisory referendum vote fails in either one of the school districts, the merger process ends.
The two districts have been studying the possibility of merger for well more than a year.
A Merger Advisory Committee was formed, with 10 members from each district, representing the communities, teachers, administrators, students and school boards.
The committee, aided by professional consultants from Castallo and Silky of Syracuse, looked at similarities and differences in the districts and the impact that merger would have on transportation, finance, curriculum, taxes and other factors.
Numerous public meetings and forums have been held about the merger possibility along the way, and more are coming up.
ELCS will host a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the Donald Huntley gym.
Westport's public forum is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, in Bulles Auditorium.
The forums, the districts said in identical statements, "will serve as an opportunity for residents to be informed of the merger study proposal prior to the Oct. 9th vote and for residents to share feedback on the proposal."
If merger were to be approved in a Dec. 4 vote, the new, combined school district would begin operations July 1, 2019.
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