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Potsdam, Canton merger committee looks at curriculum possibilities

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POTSDAM - The committee exploring a potential merger between the Canton and Potsdam central school districts got a glimpse this week at the academic offerings that could be possible with a merged district.

Looking at a handout that included lists of all the classes offered at both schools, as well as classes that were unique to each district, Douglas Hamlin, a consultant with the Western New York Educational Service Council (WNYESC), said a list had been compiled showing the potential offerings a merged district could have.

“If you take a look down the left-hand column you’re looking at the potential of what you could have with a merged district,” he said. “It will take some work and planning, but this is what you could have.”

While the majority of increased offerings would come at the high school level, Canton does not currently have a middle school orchestra, and Potsdam does not offer a character education class to its sixth-grade students. Also both districts have varying offerings of technology and home & careers courses at the middle school level.

Roger Gorham, another WNYESC consultant, said that even the basic schedules differ with the length of classes, 42 minutes in Canton and 40 minutes in Potsdam, as well as the length of their class cycles. Canton uses four-day cycles while Potsdam uses a six-day cycle.

“For a merged district, that is one of the logistical things that must be figured out,” Mr. Gorham said.

A comparison of the school’s music programs also shows the potential for additional instrumental opportunities for Canton students, who are not offered instrumental lessons until the fifth grade. Potsdam begins offering band and orchestra lessons in the fourth grade, as well as jazz band at the middle school level as an extracurricular activity. Also offered at Potsdam as an extracurricular activity is a third- and fourth-grade chorus.

Music offerings at the high school level also vary with Potsdam offering Foundation of Music and Music in Our Lives, while Canton offers Technical Theater and Music Appreciation/Music Alternatives. Canton offers select choir as a regular chorus offering, while Potsdam’s select choir is an extracurricular activity. Although Canton does not offer orchestra, they do offer jazz band and jazz combo as a regular academic offering, while jazz band at Potsdam is an extracurricular activity. Canton also offers a vocal jazz class and a vocal jazz ensemble.

In a paragraph introducing the side by side comparison of class offerings at the high school, the consultants wrote, “Generally, mergers create the greatest potential/opportunity for high school programs. This portion of the study considers the academic potential arising out of a combined school district.”

While both district’s require the same 22 credits to graduate, the path to graduation can vary greatly depending on whether a student is enrolled in Canton or Potsdam.

For instance, Canton’s art department offers Ceramics I and II, as well as Advanced Art/Metal Sculpture. Potsdam’s offerings include Drawing II, Drawing and Painting I and II, Photography II, and Graphic Design.

The two English Departments are similar, although Canton does offer ninth-grade honors English and Resource ELA.

The two technology departments vary greatly with Canton offering digital electronics, food and nutrition, and metal shop. Potsdam’s unique offerings include Introduction to Engineering and Design, Civil Engineering and Architecture, and Residential Structures.

Both districts currently offer only French and Spanish for foreign languages, although Potsdam offers an AP French course not offered at Canton.

In the math department, Canton offers Intermediate Math, Math 9, Resource Math, and Survey of Math, while Potsdam offers Algebra IIA, Financial Math, Business 101, Introduction to Marketing, and an advanced Calculus class offered through a program in conjunction with Syracuse University.

In the science department Canton offers Agricultural Science, pre veterinary science, and AP Environmental science, while Potsdam offers Greenhouse I & II, and Natural Resources Management.

Unique offerings for Canton in the social studies department include AP European History, and AP US History. Potsdam offers Civics, as well as a psychology class through a partnership with Paul Smiths.

The list also noted that Potsdam offers five AP courses with Canton offering eight.

Following the presentation, committee members then identified several priorities of what they would like to see offered in a merged district.

Priorities identified included increased offerings and services for at risk students, an increase in the number of challenging courses for students of all levels, an increase in the number of AP courses, starting foreign language instruction at a younger age and placing a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, English, Arts & Math) programs and initiatives.

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