WESTFIELD - Westfield Academy and Central School officials have decided they will see how the community feels about another centralization attempt with Ripley Central School.
At a recent Board of Education meeting, Marie Edwards, board president, said she had met with Ripley's superintendent and board officers to discuss the possibility of combining districts.
"We are starting the discussions again," Edwards said at the meeting.
However, before the two districts can move forward with an actual vote, they must be able to show the feelings of residents in both communities have significantly changed since the last merger attempt, where Westfield residents defeated combining their district with Ripley. To determine how the community feels about the situation, board members discussed a number of ways of gauging the opinions of Westfield residents, including surveys, holding public forums and providing information through the district's Parent Broadcast network.
"It's worth moving forward," said board member Jeanne Habig. "I mean, we opened up the door. We just need to investigate further on how this will benefit both districts."
During the centralization discussions with Ripley, Tony Pisicoli, the board's vice president, said all options need to be considered, including the possible annexation of the Ripley district. Joy Bodenmiller, another board member, echoed Pisicoli's comments.
"I think everything needs to be on the table this time," Bodenmiller said.
Board member Tim Smith asked Mark Sissel, district superintendent, if Ripley officials had not yet ruled annexation out of the equation.
"Correct," Sissel replied.
Near the end of the board's discussion at the meeting, Edwards asked each board member to share their thoughts on moving forward with additional centralization talks.
Board member Steve Reynolds said he supported moving forward with discussions, but added the community should play a large role in any decision made by the board. Bodenmiller agreed with Reynolds. Steve Cockram, Pisicoli, Habig and Edwards all indicated a desire to continue centralization discussions.
However, board member Abbie Cardy said she was not in favor of continuing talks with Ripley because she was concerned how certain items, such as declining enrollment, would affect the district in the future.
Meanwhile, Smith and board member Mark Winslow said they wanted to make sure all options - including annexation - would be examined.
"I think by the results of the last vote I know how the community feels," Smith said. "I don't want to stretch this thing out for months."
Sissel said, if the community shows a significant change in feelings, then no additional studies or consultants would be needed to move to a centralization vote.
"This (centralization) would happen July 1, 2011," Sissel said. "We would be combined districts."
Sissel also said Westfield would continue to explore additional ways of sharing services and the possibility of establishing a regional high school in the future.