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Firm hired for Canton-Potsdam school merger study

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A Buffalo firm has been hired to conduct a $48,000 feasibility study that will explore the idea of merging Potsdam Central and Canton central school districts.

The Canton school board last week approved a proposal submitted by Western New York Educational Services, based at the University of Buffalo.

The Potsdam school board is expected to approve the contract at its meeting tonight.

The two districts will split the $48,000 cost. The expense will be covered by state efficiency funding secured by state senators Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome. The next step is for the two boards to meet with the study consultant.

“They want to have a meeting with both boards to explain the process and hear our expectations,” said Canton School Board President Barbara B. Beekman.

The year-long study will involve collecting data from both school districts related to enrollment projections, staffing levels, programs and building use plans.

A plan for education programs and curricula, a transportation plan and fiscal impacts of the reorganization will be part of the research.

Mrs. Beekman said the study results will be submitted to the state Education Department in June before they’re released to local school officials and the public.

Potsdam Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said an official from the state will review the study to make sure it complies with the law for mergers.

“It is normal procedure for state Ed to receive the feasibility study prior to releasing it to the public,” Mr. Brady said.

Hit hard by state funding cuts in the past several years, both Potsdam and Canton school boards agreed in July to launch a study that would outline the benefits and challenges of combining the two districts.

A decision whether to merge ultimately would be determined by voters in both communities through public referendums.

Over the past four years, Canton Central lost $7.3 million through the state’s gap elimination adjustments and cut 56 teaching and staff jobs.

Potsdam Central has lost $7.7 million in gap eliminations and has eliminated roughly 40 jobs.

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