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ATWOOD — Residents of two school districts have voted to be combined into a single district.

Voters in the Atwood-Hammond school district voted 456 to 327 on Tuesday to be annexed to the Arthur school district, while voters in the Arthur school district voted 967 to 242 to approve the annexation.

Atwood-Hammond Superintendent Kenny Schwengel said the merger will take effect for the 2014-15 school year.

"This is a sad and emotional time," Schwengel said. "Any time you look at possibly closing down a school building, it is sad.

"But, overall for the students and taxpayers it is going to be a better situation."

Schwengel said Atwood-Hammond students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will continue to attend classes at their current school in Atwood.

But Atwood-Hammond High School will be closed, and the students in grades nine through 12 will attend classes at Arthur-Lovington High School, which will have a combined enrollment of about 300 students.

Schwengel said the issue was put on the ballot because of declining enrollment and shrinking fund reserves.

"This started four years ago when we were looking at possible cuts," he said. "We tried to pass a tax increase, but it failed by a 2 to 1 margin."

He said having a larger combined tax base and combined resources will help the larger district stave off severe tax increases and also hold the line the possible budget cuts that some school districts are considering.

"Had this ballot question failed, we were looking to have a 90-cent to dollar increase per $100 assessed valuation next year," he said.

He said the two school districts will spend the 2013-14 school year getting ready for the merger.

"We will coordinate the school calendars and have groups meet on scheduling, curriculum and other issues," he said.

Starting in the fall of 2014, the whole district will be known as Arthur District 305. The future name for the high school is yet to be determined.

"Atwood-Hammond District 39 will no longer exist," he said.