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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 jobs.

``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."