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Joint advisory committee tours Potsdam Central School facilities

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POTSDAM - Members of the joint advisory committee exploring a potential merger between the Canton and Potsdam central school districts took a tour of Potsdam’s campus Wednesday evening before meeting to discuss the facility’s strengths and weaknesses.

The tour began at the elementary/middle school complex.

In the elementary school, stops included the building’s office suite, music room, the library, gymnasium, large group instruction room, computer lab, art room, and a typical class room. The teacher center was pointed out, but due to time restrictions, not included in tour.

“Most of our elementary teachers have a Smartboard in their room,” said Superintendent Patrick H. Brady, who added that the implementation of the Common Core has limited use of Smartboards this year.

“That’s one of the complaints we’ve gotten from teachers,” he said, jokingly adding, “but that’s a whole other meeting.”

In the middle school, the tour included stops at the office suite, music suite, a science room with a live snake, computer lab, home economics room, cafeterium, kitchen, art room and large group instructional room.

That room, middle school Principal Mark Bennett described as “1973 in all its glory,” referring to the year AA Kingston Middle School was built. A visit to the gymnasium was not possible due to a modified girls basketball that was in progress at the time.

Mr. Bennett described the layout of the middle school, which is connected to the elementary school through a corridor, as “four squares.”

A tour of the high school included stops in both halves of the building, including the 1927 wing, where the district’s auditorium, music department, business office and superintendent’s office are housed.

Stops also included the “blue gym,” a gymnasium used for adaptive physical education, as well as the main gymnasium, where a varsity basketball practice was taking place. That gymnasium, Mr. Brady, said can be divided into three smaller gymnasiums, if needed.

“We probably had the worst athletic facilities in Section 10,” Mr. Brady said. “That changed though with out last project.”

Those facilities also include a multi-purpose turf field and track, which due to weather conditions were not included on the tour.

The fitness center, computer lab, wood shop and green house were also stops along the way, as was an art room that included both a kiln and a dark room.

As for the 1927 wing, Mr. Brady transitioned into that portion of the tour by saying, “You’ve seen some very nice space, but now you’re going into the 1927 area. That’s where my office is.”

That’s also where the district’s auditorium is located, and while the auditorium is slated for nearly $1 million in renovations as part of the district’s capital project, it remains a work in progress.

“It’s something we do a little with in each project,” Mr. Brady said.

When the committee met last month they held a similar tour in Canton.

Banford Elementary Principal Joe McDonough participated in both tours.

“It’s interesting to see the differences in the facilities,” he said. “It’s great to see the Potsdam buildings. I’ve been in them before, but never to see every inch of them.”

When asked what stood out to him, now that he’s toured both facilities, he said the size of Potsdam’s school buildings was the first thing that came to his mind.

“They service the same grade levels and about the same population, but they do seem to have more available space,” he said.

Kimberly Busch, who teaches in the Canton School District but lives in Potsdam and is a representative on the Potsdam committee, said she feels like it’s difficult to compare the two districts.

“Overall I think it’s difficult to compare because of the capital projects,” she said.

Canton recently completed a capital project, while Potsdam is in the midst of one.

“The one thing I really liked about Potsdam is the administrative suites, she said, referring to the office suites in each building that have the guidance office, nurse’s office and principal’s office all connected to each other.

Ms. Busch, who is a music teacher, said one thing about Potsdam that could use serious improvements is its auditorium.

“My classroom is the auditorium in Canton,” she said.

As for Potsdam’s auditorium, she said walking into it “was like going to Slowville.”

One thing though that stuck out in her mind was how similar the two districts actually are.

“I’m enjoying getting to know the districts, and I’m surprised as how similar they are on so many levels,” she said. “In terms of class size and enrollment, I’m surprised at how similar they are.

Following the tours, both Mr. Brady and Canton Superintendent William P. Gregory said they felt it was important for committee members to see what each district has to offer.

“I think it’s been a very good opportunity for the committee to view the facilities and capacities available for programs. There is uniqueness in each district, but in many ways they are similarities in the facilities, as there are in our students and communities,” Mr. Brady said. “This will help to build awareness for them when we delve into the key issues of where programs will be held in a merged district.”

Like Mr. McDonough, Mr. Gregory said one of the things that stood out to him about Potsdam was the size of its school buildings.

“The capacity of the Potsdam schools was larger than I had anticipated,” he said. “One of the striking differences is the footprint of the schools.”

While Canton’s elementary and middle school are located in a two-story structure, Potsdam has one large, one-story structure housing both schools.

Both districts though, he said would have the space needed to accommodate additional students should a merger take place.

“I think that either of these facilities would give us the opportunity to do what makes sense educationally,” he said.

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