October vote would gauge support for Arkport-Canaseraga schools merger

ARKPORT — The school boards in Arkport and Canaseraga could vote next month whether to conduct October straw polls about the support of their communities for the proposed merger of the districts.

The New York State Education Department has approved the Annexation Study with only minor editing changes, Arkport Superintendent Jesse Harper told The Spectator.

Next steps, according to the final study, are for each board to approve Oct. 9 straw polls. Arkport board members will probably vote on the matter at their Aug. 15 meeting, Harper said. The next Canaseraga board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 9.

The straw votes will indicate if the communities want to move forward with a binding referendum in November.

Participants at several meetings at both schools said the union is necessary to assure the two schools that have lost significant enrollments during the past decade start to thrive.

Current Arkport enrollment is 475 students; Canaseraga has 262 students.

At a recent meeting in Arkport, Canaseraga Board member Jason Kernan said “The merger is our future.”

Canaseraga parent Jason Shambach agreed: “People want a merger,” he said at the meeting.

“I want a merger,” echoed Canaseraga Board Vice President Sonja Robinson.

Harper said at that meeting the earliest the merger could occur is July 1, 2019, because of state-mandated procedures for mergers. He called the time between now and mid-2019 “a window” of opportunity.

People from the two districts “have been discussing merger for 60 or 70 years,” Harper said. The two schools “are already doing good things together such as a merged athletics program and robotics classes,” he said.

In another matter, Harper told board members earlier this month about the status of the voter-approved $8.1 million capital project. Those who want to enter the school this and next summer will be asked to detour through the building, Harper said.

Workers this summer are completing work on the second story, about 75 percent of the roofing and other components of the building envelope such as windows, the superintendent said.

Work on the building next summer will include the first floor and “a major cafeteria redesign,” Harper said.

The project is part of the every-five-year New York State mandated building condition survey.