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Girls hockey merger between Parishville-Hopkinton and St. Lawrence Central likely comes to an end

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PARISHVILLE - A merger between St. Lawrence Central and Parishville-Hopkinton has likely come to end following a board of education vote Monday night that does leave open the slight possibility of girls being able to play at St. Lawrence Central should they so choose.

The motion, which was approved 7-2, with James Young and Heidi Condon-Simmons both voting against the measure, took a suggestion coming from a parent at the meeting into account.

Richard Akins asked whether it would be possible to have a “split merger,” explaining that he feels like students and their families should be able to choose which team they want to play on.

“Each family has its own unique set of circumstances,” he said. “This is a good opportunity to pave the road for a split.”

Mr. Akins explained that while his children play youth hockey in Potsdam, other children from the district participate in Tri-Town’s youth hockey program, noting he doesn’t feel like it would be fair to pull children away from their friends and teammates who they are used to playing with.

“No one has given me a good reason why we can’t give the parents and children a choice,” he said.

Superintendent Darin P. Saiff, who has also spent time as an athletic director in the section, said he doesn’t believe that’s a possibility.

“I would say that’s a common sense approach, but I’m not sure if we can do it,” he said. “I don’t think that’s allowed under NYSPHSAA bylaws.”

Lisa Gray, who also spoke at last month’s board meeting again lobbied the board to continue its merger with St. Lawrence Central.

“We know what we’re getting into,” she said. “We always travel with hockey and going to Malone is no different. I would much rather stay with St. Lawrence Central if at all possible.”

Board of education member Daniel Taylor asked if anyone had polled the involved families to see what their preference was.

Ms. Gray said four of the five families and five of the six students involved would rather play for St. Lawrence Central than Potsdam.

Parishville-Hopkinton Athletic Director Robert Stewart though questioned that assertion.

“That varies based on what day you ask them,” he said, noting several of the parents have also said they had no preference.

In voting against the move, Ms. Simmons said she was worried about jeopardizing the district’s relationship with St. Lawrence Central.

“If Potsdam and Canton merge then we would have to jump somewhere else for hockey,” she said, adding that after this, St. Lawrence Central may no longer be an option.

Board of education member Joseph McGill suggested looking into Mr. Akins suggestion, rather than simply voting to merge with Potsdam.

Board of education member Willard Witherell agreed.

“Can we make that phone call and see if we can go with both schools? I don’t care either way, but if not then I’m in favor of going with the recommendation,” he said referring to Mr. Saiff’s recommendation of merging with Potsdam.

“It’s a difficult decision, because I think everyone in the room wants what’s best for the kids,” he said.

Following the meeting, Mr. Saiff explained the reasoning behind his recommendation.

“I can only speak personally for myself, but the extra travel and the scheduling of morning practices before school were a concern for me,” he said. “To me that’s the thing that bothered me the most for eighth and ninth graders.”

According to details of the merger that already exists between Malone and St. Lawrence Central, half of the season is based in Brasher Falls with half of the season, including practices, being based in Malone.

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