WESTPORT — As of July 1, Westport Central and Elizabethtown-Lewis Central schools will be history.
Voters on Tuesday voted to consolidate the districts, with 90 percent of ELCS voters approving the move, with a tally of 421 to 49; and 62 percent of WCS voters giving the OK, with a tally of 329 to 199.
WCS Interim Superintendent Josh Meyer said he was pleased with the high turnout of more than 1,000 voters between the two districts.
“I think with those kinds of numbers, we can feel pretty confident that the community really voiced their opinion at the ballot box and we can feel comfortable moving forward, that this is what the community wants to do,” he said.
Voters also chose to have their new district overseen by a seven-member school board, though the results of a proposition on the terms of office were not immediately available.
The ballots from both ELCS and WCS were counted at Westport Central with state Education Department representatives on hand.
“I’m appreciative of the voter turnout, which has been historic,” ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne said.
He expressed appreciation to all who participated in the lengthy process that culminated in Tuesday’s results — community members, employees and students in both districts.
“The discussions and the discourse, though difficult at times, proved to be valuable in finding solutions for the greater good,” he said.
“As a community of learners, that’s something that we should all be proud of.”
In April 2013, ELCS went public with its desire to consider consolidation with another school district.
Osborne, who has been involved with that aim all along, said he overheard speculation Tuesday over what a consolidated district would be named and what school mascot would emerge.
“Complete families have come out to vote that I haven’t seen since I was principal 10 years ago,” he said.
WCS and ELCS have shared various services for some time; some sports teams are already made up of students from both.
The districts performed a pre-merger study a few years ago that predicted enough positive outcomes that the two school boards voted to hire a consultant to conduct a more complete probe.
Merger-study committees in each district met monthly for most of the past year, focusing on such topics as finances, programs and transportation.
Public meetings and forums encouraged community input at both WCS and ELCS.
Both school boards had supported consolidation, as did Osborne and Meyer.
Their decisions were driven by financial issues that affected programming for students, upkeep of facilities, tax rates and other factors. Both districts have seen numerous cuts in recent years, and more would be coming should consolidation fail, district leaders said.
If the measure had met with defeat at either district Tuesday, there would have been no consolidation, though it could have been brought up again in a year.