NH Week in Review for Sept. 3: A rocky road for some going back to school

Sep 03, 2017

Back to school this week raised some issues in certain districts, the lack of bus drivers chief among them.

School districts in Northwood and Wakefield had to change the start of school because there weren’t enough certified drivers to cover all the bus routes.

In Wakefield, it meant that elementary and middle school students will start Sept. 11, a week later than scheduled. School business administrator Terry Wiggin says the district has 14 bus routes but only three drivers.

Northwood school officials announced that the school day would be shifted back by two hours, running from 10 am to 4:30 pm. This change allows time for bus drivers from other towns to finish their normal routes and drive to Northwood. A driver was found for the high schoolers.

In Portsmouth and other communities, students are reporting later for school as part of a new start time policy for middle and high school students.

“Overall the impression from students has been positive,” Portsmouth Superintendent Steve Zadravec said in an NHPR interview.

The idea is that if kids are allowed to sleep later, according to the NHPR report, they’ll be better prepared to learn once they get to school. Schools in the towns of Durham, Madbury, and Lee as well as the Inter-Lakes School District in the Laconia area also are starting late this year.

A Rochester mother had filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) against the school district over the teaching of her son, who is autistic.

Foster’s Daily Democrat reported this week the teen will receive full educational services paid by the district at a specialized school in Beverly, Mass., with the situation being re-evaluated in December.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., released a study this week that said New Hampshire is one of 44 states whose funding levels are lower than they were before the recession. Higher education spending in the Granite State is the lowest in the nation.

Since fiscal year 2008, just before the recession, New Hampshire’s appropriations per full-time student in the public higher education system have dropped 25 percent, according to the data. See a Concord Monitor report here.

In other education-related news, Franklin Pierce University announced it is offering 20 students displaced by Hurricane Harvey the opportunity to attend classes at the institution's main campus here for free this fall. A student must be enrolled as an undergraduate in good standing at an accredited higher education institution affected by the hurricane to qualify. See a Keene Sentinel story here.

And speaking of back to school this week, Gov. Christopher Sununu says it shouldn’t be until after Labor Day. He said in an interview with the Union Leader that such a state policy works better for families and for the state economy. "We were seeing a drop off dramatically in business not at the end of August but by the middle of August as families were cutting back on their late summer vacations leading up to Labor Day," Sununu said.

Northern Pass decision

State regulators will  postpone their final decision on the $1.6 billion Northern Pass hydro-electric transmission line project for five months and extend hearings until the end of the year.

Eversource had hoped to have all federal and state permits by the end of the year with construction to begin next year and the transmission line finished by the end of 2020.

But the permitting process will be extended into 2018 as the state Site Evaluation Committee hears from remaining witnesses.

Read more here.

Also in NH

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has moved two legal challenges of the state’s controversial new law tightening voter registration requirements from a state court to a federal court. The new law includes a residency requirement that is being challenged as a burden See a WMUR story here.

Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald informed city and town clerks that in approximately 42 cities and towns, local election officials incorrectly included “handwritten, confidential, non-public information on the official checklists used" on general election day, 2016. “This information includes, among other things, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, and telephone numbers,” the memo says. This has complicated the release of voter data to the Election Integrity Commission, of which Gardner is a member. See a WMUR story here.

After a piece of concrete fell from a bridge over Interstate 93 in Londonderry, state officials have targeted 16 red-listed bridges with decks in “poor condition” for inspections, The New Hampshire Department of Transportation also expects to put out a contract to install protective shielding, similar to what was installed under the Route 102 bridge at Exit 4 off I-93, on all 16 of the bridges it has identified as having “potential issues,” said Bill Boynton, public information officer for NHDOT. See a Concord Monitor story here.

Legal experts are questioning whether the drug searches during a customs checkpoint on Interstate 93 in Woodstock are constitutional. Immigration advocates are objecting that the checkpoint was set up in the first place. Arrests at the checkpoint swept up two groups of defendants – those without documentation, who were processed and then turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and those with U.S. citizenship, who were arrested by the Woodstock Police Department on drug charges. See a Concord Monitor story here.

Should NH continue to base statewide standardized tests on Common Core? Should all rescued hikers be required to reimburse the state for part of the costs of their rescue? Should UNH require a course on cultural competency? Those are some of the issues we’re tackling on our Facebook page. Join in here on the conversation.

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