Referendum on Oct. 9 will test support for Arkport, Canaseraga union

ARKPORT — The first official vote about the potential merger of Arkport and Canaseraga school districts is fewer than two weeks away, residents of the two districts are learning this week.

The so-called straw vote, a referendum on whether the process will move forward, will be held from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, Arkport Superintendent Jesse Harper announced Tuesday night at the Arkport Central School during one of the last two public meetings about the proposed merger.

The final public information meeting was held last night at Canaseraga Central.

The referendum and official merger vote on Nov. 12 will determine if the districts will merge next July 1.

The votes are the culmination of at least 25 years of off-and-on discussion about the potential union. Residents of the districts voted twice about the issue during the mid-1990s. Local lore is that Arkport voters defeated one of the proposals by one vote and Canaseraga residents defeated the second resolution by an identical single vote.

Board members at the two districts within the last decade also informally discussed sharing a superintendent, but the exploration went nowhere.

The most recent path to merger for Alfred-Almond, Arkport and Canaseraga school districts ended three years ago as voters in all three districts voted against the proposal.

Arkport and Canaseraga last year merged athletic programs, students selected wolves as program mascots and official colors teal and black for the athletic uniforms.

School boards and administrative staff at the two districts during the past year worked hard to alert voters to the potential merger with newsletters, multiple educational forums, reminders at each board of education meeting plus separate merger advisory committee meetings..

Boards of education at the two schools noted in identical newsletters mailed to residents in each district that “student enrollment in both districts has steadily declined in recent years and that trend is expected to continue. Since the 2012-13 academic year, the number of Arkport students has decreased more than 11 percent and the Canaseraga student population dropped by about four percent.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, both districts have lost numerous courses due to declining enrollment, including some higher-level math and science offerings, business electives such as accounting and arts classes, officials said.

“The merged district also would look to expand further by adding new classes that match student interests, language instruction at the elementary level, flexible grade configurations and more,” according to the most recent newsletter mailed to residents of both districts.

The possibility of combining the two districts has been under discussion in both districts since May 2016. The process of studying a potential merger officially began in December 2017, when an advisory committee of volunteers from both districts began to meet with educational consultants Castallo & Silky.

Both boards of education submitted the final study in June to the New York State Education Department.

The department approved the report in July.