The approval of a draft lease for upkeep of the three elementary schools in the Region 12 district should signal the end of the ill-advised concept of consolidating the schools into one.

At least we decidedly hope so.

The battle between those who wanted to consolidate the Washington, Bridgewater and Roxbury elementary schools and those who fought to retain local schools proved contentious, divisive, disruptive and litigious.

Though the operation of one high school and one middle school for the district -- Shepaug Valley High School and Shepaug Valley Middle School -- works beautifully, we believe the concept would have proven detrimental at the elementary level.

Supporters of a consolidated elementary school for Region 12 had argued -- persuasively -- that some services, such as a media center, would have been enhanced by pooling resources. Also, consolidation would have provided a new schoolhouse with modern-day amenities.

Despite those appealing advantages, the three towns would have instead experienced loss with the closing of community-centered elementary schools.

Bridgewater residents were vehemently against the proposal and took the district to court -- successfully -- to fight it.

Roxbury townspeople also opposed consolidation, but Washington -- the largest of the three towns -- did.

Meanwhile, the three local elementary schools grew in greater and greater need of repairs.

The lease draft agreement, which needs state approval before the Region 12 school board can formally adopt it, calls for a Regional School Repair Committee to be formed and establishes a budget line item of $100,000 to be set aside annually for school repairs.

This does not mean consolidation will not come up again, as it assuredly will with a declining student population. The 10-year lease can be canceled if agreement on consolidation were to occur.

But for now, the Region 12 Board of Education can -- and should -- put that movement behind them and concentrate on repairing the three elementary schools as needed.

And families who live in Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington, or who are considering moving there, can know that each town will continue to have a local elementary school for the education of their young children.