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Potsdam, Canton merger committee looks at curriculum possibilities

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POTSDAM — The committee exploring a merger of the Canton and Potsdam central school districts looked last week at what kinds of course schedules might be offered.

Looking at a handout that lists all classes now offered at both districts and classes unique to each, Douglas Hamlin, a consultant with the Western New York Educational Service Council, said a list has been compiled showing the potential offerings after a merger.

“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,” Mr. Hamlin said. “Also, both districts have varying offerings of technology and home and careers courses at the middle-school level.”

Roger Gorham, another consultant, said even the basic schedules differ — classes are 42 minutes in Canton and 40 minutes in Potsdam. Also, Canton uses four-day class 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.

More instrumental instruction is possible in music programs, as Canton students now don’t get such lessons until fifth grade.

Potsdam begins offering band and orchestra lessons in the fourth grade, as well as jazz band in middle school as an extracurricular activity. Also offered at Potsdam as an extracurricular activity is a third- and fourth-grade chorus.

Music at the high-school level also varies, with Potsdam offering Foundation of Music and Music in Our Lives, and Canton offering Technical Theater and Music Appreciation/Music Alternatives.

Canton’s select choir is a regular chorus class, while Potsdam’s is extracurricular. Canton does not offer orchestra, but jazz band and jazz combo are regular academic offerings. Jazz band at Potsdam, however, is an extracurricular activity.

Canton also offers a vocal jazz class and a vocal jazz ensemble.

While both districts require 22 credits to graduate, their paths to graduation can vary greatly.

For instance, Canton’s art department offers Ceramics I and II and 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 offers 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’ foreign language curricula consist only of French and Spanish, although Potsdam offers an AP French course that Canton does not.

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 through a program in conjunction with Syracuse University.

In the science department, Canton offers agricultural science, preveterinary science and AP environmental science, while Potsdam offers Greenhouse I & II and Natural Resources Management.

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

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

Those 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 an earlier age and placing a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and initiatives.

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