By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Facing declining enrollment and shrinking budgets, voters in the Joplin-Inverness and Chester school districts have appproved consolidating the two districts.
The consolidation election was held Tuesday.
"The next thing is appointing a consolidated board and having them start the process of figuring things out for the next year," said Liberty County Superintendent of Schools Rachel Ghekiere.
The consolidation is the second of two rural Hi-Line districts in a year. KG and Blue Sky voted to consolidate in June.
The unofficial count shows that voters in the Inverness precinct in Hill County approved the consolidation 46-28, while voters in the Joplin precinct in Liberty County supported it 132-38. J-I had 66 percent voter turnout, despite subzero temperatures.
In Chester, voters in the Chestesr elementary district approved consolidation 457-96, while voters in the high school district approved it 474-97. The turnout was 58 percent in the high school and elementary districts, with 87 percent turnout in the outlying elementary district of Eagle Creek and 33 percent in Whitlash.
Voters in each district considering consolidation must approve the consolidation before it can proceed.
Ghekiere said that once she receives official notice of the results, she will have 10 days to appoint an interim board to consolidate the districts. The consolidation must be completed by the next fiscal year, starting July 1.
She will appoint four members, who then will try to reach a consensus for a fifth member, Ghekiere said. If the four can't agree, she will select the fifth member.
Decisions of how the new district will be set up, including issues like what buildings will be kept open, will be up to the interim board, Ghekiere said.
The interim board overseeing consolidation of KG and Blue Sky has tentatively scheduled its next meeting for Jan. 12, where it will select the superintendent of the new district, decide where to locate the high school and elementary school, and what grades each school will hold.