West Chester Area board OKs new district map

Posted: July 30, 2014

The West Chester Area school board decided Monday how it will redraw its voting boundaries into regions, marking the latest step in the district's move away from the at-large system it has used since its consolidation in 1966.

The board voted, 6-2, to approve the new map, which divides the 75-square-mile district into three regions of about 36,000 residents each. It keeps West Chester Borough in one region, a previous point of contention. Approval of the map means the new voting system could be in place in time for next year's primary elections in the district, which has almost 12,000 students.

The map now goes to Chester County Court for approval. The county's Department of Voter Services has already signed off on it, the district said.

The school board listened to residents' concerns and tried to address community needs, the board's president, Rick Swalm, said. "It's about how we can create the best board possible," he said. "Let's move forward."

Last month, the board sent back to a committee a map that would have split West Chester into two regions, which some argued would weaken its voting power.

On the new map, West Chester is in Region 1, which is in the center of the district and includes most of West Goshen. Region 2 is in the upper right part of the district and contains West Whiteland and East Goshen. Region 3 is in the lower left part of the district and includes East Bradford, Westtown, Thornbury in Chester County, Thornbury in Delaware County, and part of West Goshen.

In April, the board voted, 6-3, to change to a regional system for electing members. Members in favor of the change have said a regional system will lessen the effects of politics on board elections and make sure all areas of the district are represented.

People who oppose the regional system have said the at-large system works fine and that, under the new system, board members will be more likely to favor their own regions when they make decisions.

Board member Maureen Snook, who voted against the new map, said she still had not heard a persuasive argument for changing to a regional voting system.


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond

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