The Worcester and Schenevus school board presidents see the upcoming public straw vote on merger as a tossup.
Set for next Wednesday with polls at both schools open from noon to 8pm, the straw vote will decide whether the merger process will move to a binding vote in December.
This would be an annexation merger––Schenevus Central would become part of Worcester Central School––and the fifth time any kind of merger has been studied by the two districts.
Those favoring merger note the opportunities for increased programs for students and stabilized taxes. Those against feel a loss of school identity, particularly in Schenevus.
“I don’t know. I hear a lot of mixed things,” said Worcester board president Bill Fisher. “I believe it’s a tossup.”
He’s concerned about negative and inaccurate information on social media and also pointed out that COVID played a role. Although both districts published the merger study and newsletters, people didn’t feel engaged with the necessary Zoom meetings, Mr. Fisher said.
“I struggle that not many people are asking questions,” he added. “It’s hard to gauge.”
Schenevus board President Tim Walke agreed that the straw vote is a tough call.
“You hear the good, you hear the bad,” Mr. Walke said. “We’re in a holding pattern.”
He urged voters to educate themselves as much as possible, although with the election only six days away, it might be too late.
Mr. Fisher is a firm merger advocate, saying that the “overlying theme for me are the more enhanced educational programs.”
And although there’s strong sports competition between the two schools––only a little more than four miles apart––Mr. Fisher said kids from both schools are friends and socialize together.
“The communities are connected. The schools should be connected,” Mr. Fisher said.
Mr. Walke felt he should be neutral and not try to sway votes.
“Let the people decide,” he said. “That’s why the two school boards put it to the public for a straw vote.”
Voters in both districts must approve the merger for it to go forward. If one approves and the other doesn’t, the process stops, Mr. Walke said.