School makeup days
The New Hampshire Department of Education has excused more than two
dozen school districts, including Hampton, Hampton Falls, North
Hampton, Portsmouth, South Hampton, Seabrook, and Winnacunnet, from
making up school days that were lost to last week's flooding.
The waivers to the state's required 180-day school year were
announced even as flood-affected districts across the border in
Massachusetts were still awaiting word whether its education
commissioner, David P. Driscoll, would approve their requests for
similar treatment. The Department of Education had received about a
dozen requests for waivers as of Tuesday morning. Officials in Peabody
and Haverhill said they have filed waivers, while other area districts
are considering it.
Driscoll is expected to finish making decisions on the individual
waiver requests by early next week, said Heidi Perlman, an Education
Department spokeswoman. She said he will look at the number of days
districts called off school for flooding and snow this year and how
severely the flooding had affected them.
``He feels strongly about the 180-day rule and he's not quick to
grant waivers," she said. ``He will take everything into consideration
and make decisions on a case-by-case basis."
Last year, Driscoll refused to grant waivers to districts hit hard
by a blizzard and other snowstorms. Instead, he urged districts to
start their school year before Labor Day so there would be enough time
in June to make up for any missed days.
In New Hampshire, Lyonel B. Tracy , the education commissioner, told
local school districts in an e-mail last week that he intended to honor
the wishes of local districts when considering waivers. Tracy told the
Globe on Friday, after he approved the first batch of waivers, that he
expected more districts would be filing requests. The flooding prompted
238 Granite State schools and day-care centers to close for at least
one day last week.
Tracy said the school districts could not be expected to jeopardize
the safety of students: ``It wouldn't be appropriate for us to
absolutely hold districts to their 180-day calendars."
Without the waiver, the missed days could jeopardize some school
districts' ability to meet the 175-day requirement for graduating
seniors, he said, and he noted that having the school year stretch to
late June or early July would interfere with summer camps and summer
``Graduations have been scheduled and invitations have been sent
out," he said. ``If this happened in January or February, school
districts would have had time to plan for this."
Governor John Lynch asked President Bush on Monday to declare a
major disaster in six counties, including the state's two most southern
counties, Hillsborough and Rockingham. Officials have placed the
flooding damage to the state's infrastructure, such as roads and dams,
at $14 million, including two dams that failed. It also damaged more
than 5,000 homes and 90 businesses.
Granting the waivers provided much relief to the Derry Cooperative
School District, where officials cited the logistical problems of
delaying graduation ceremonies for eighth-graders at the West Running
Brook Middle School and the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School.
However, Marjorie C. Chiafery , Merrimack's superintendent, has
recommended that her school board not seek a waiver. ``It's important
for kids to be in school for 180 days -- that's the state law," she
said. ``All the time we say we have so little time to teach everything.
The 180 days is precious."