Hard as it is, the residents of Westport and Elizabethtown-Lewis school districts need to give the idea of merger a fair hearing before they decide on its merit. 

It's not a surprise that some people are already hammering in "Vote No" lawn signs and passing out anti-merger pamphlets. We have seen it happen in a number of communities over the decades.

Change is always hard, especially when it might mean giving up something with meaning as deep as school traditions.

The years from kindergarten to high-school graduation are among the most impactful and vivid in most people's lives. That is when we melded into the adults we would become.

So, the hallways we walked, the classrooms we sat in, the teams we rooted on, the school colors we wore all are embedded deep in our hearts.

Even years after graduation, it is hard to think of those symbols being relegated permanently to the past. That is especially true for people whose children or grandchildren now attend the same school.

But it is the future, not the past, that must be on all minds as the consolidation study is being prepared.

The goal of any merger is not just saving money, though obviously that is a desired benefit for the taxpayers and for the financial stability of the schools.

An even-more-important element of the decision has to be what is best for the students — now and years into the future.

That is why we implore residents in all the involved communities to reserve their judgment until they have some solid facts to consider.

A merger would create a completely new school district, and the study being undertaken by Syracuse-based consultants Castallo & Silky will lay out in detail the ramifications of combining ELCS and WCS.

Once those facts are available, residents of both districts can assess the idea based on solid information, not emotion and rumors.

We applaud the many people who have turned out for the school board meetings about consolidation. They are taking the initiative to get in on the discussion early and hear accurate data.

North Country residents will probably remember a vivid example of consolidation consternation.

When the two Catholic schools in the City of Plattsburgh — St. John's Central School and Mount Assumption Institute — were talking about combining, stalwart supporters of both schools had trouble with the concept.

Among the details that had to be worked out to the satisfaction of all were matters as big as budgets and as "small" as the new school colors.

But, decades later, Seton Catholic Central School stands as testimony to how merger can strengthen a school and secure its future.

No action will be taken on any consolidation of Elizabethtown-Lewis and Westport central schools without the consent of the majority of residents in those communities. Separate public referendums must be approved by voters in each school district.

So we urge residents to curb their unease until a formal plan is presented and they have the information needed to make a decision with their heads as well as their hearts.

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