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SALAMANCA – The Seneca Nation of Indians plans to expand educational opportunities for its youngest citizens through the proposed purchase and conversion of the former Seneca Elementary School.

The $950,000 purchase of the old school, which was mothballed eight months ago, will be decided in a March 11 referendum of Salamanca School District residents.

The proposed Seneca Arts and Learning Center, to include preschool and day-care facilities, will focus on early childhood education with the teaching of the Seneca language in an immersion-learning environment.

“Our goal is to restore Seneca fluency and provide a center of academic distinction for our children in a safe, nurturing environment,” Seneca Nation Treasurer Rodney Pierce said. “By providing more early childhood learning opportunities for all residents of this region, we are going to enhance the Nation’s and Salamanca’s economic vitality, inspire artistic creativity and increase educational excellence overall.”

Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder emphasized the importance of the new facility.

“By infusing our language, culture, education and arts into one facility, we strengthen our commitment to early childhood education, which will help us cultivate excellence in our next seven generations,” he said. “Having all of these components housed in this facility creates a strong connectivity and will enhance our ability to achieve established goals to benefit the Seneca Nation and our families.”

Negotiations between the district and Senecas have been under way since early last year, according to district Superintendent Robert J. Breidenstein

Breidenstein added, “We see this transformation as the perfect building reuse and encourage the community’s approval.”

Seneca officials said that if voters approve the sale, design efforts will begin at the end of March.

Also on the March 11 referendum ballot is the purchase of property at 6078 Broad St. for $41,000. The lot is owned by Michael Zarzecki of Olean.

The vote will be held from noon to 9 p.m. in the gymnasium of the school complex at 50 Iroquois Drive.