Canton and Potsdam schools would leave elementary schools in place if merger goes ahead
Sunday, February 2, 2014 - 5:06 pm

By JIMMY LAWTON

If Canton and Potsdam schools merge, elementary buildings would likely remain in both towns.

“We want to find the best model to fit the combined community. It’s generally accepted that elementary schools will be in both communities,” Canton Superintendent Bill Gregory said.

He said the joint merger study committee will be working to determine what age groups the elementary schools would serve if the schools combined.

“What would be the configuration? Would it be pre-K through fifth-grade, pre-K through sixth grade, pre-K through eighth grade? That’s what we are going to be looking at soon,” he said.

Gregory said identifying the school configurations would be determined before the conversation as to where the high school will be located will take place.

Both Canton and Potsdam held meetings last week to offer the public a chance to ask questions regarding the study, and to share the information that has been compiled so far.

Despite the cold weather, more than 100 people attended, with roughly 35 in Potsdam, and between 70 and 80 in Canton.

Gregory said transparency is one of the biggest concerns moving forward, because the decision to merge falls solely on the public.

“We want people to be able to make an informed judgment. We are hoping more people will attend the town hall meetings as we get closer to making recommendations,” he said.

Patrick Brady, superintendent at Potsdam Central School, said the meeting at his district went well.

“There were a lot of good questions not only about the merger, but about the process leading up to it,” he said. “We talked about some of the underlying issues driving the study. The financial pressures we face and the lack of state aid. I think it went well,” he said.

Gregory had a similar feel for the Canton meeting.

“In our case we had a lot of political leaders there. The village board attended the school board attended, and parents and teachers were there as well,” he said. “People seemed open to the study. They want to know what the different possibilities will be,” he said.

Gregory said one of the concerns raised at the meeting centered around the lengthy commute for students who would likely spend more time on the bus if schools merged.

He said the new district would span roughly 221 square miles, which is actually a smaller area than several other districts including Gouverneur and Colton-Pierrepont.

“So we found there are already schools that are transporting students even further,” he said.

The next meeting will be held Feb. 10 at Canton Central School. It will focus on athletics and extracurricular activities.