City students back to class today; Mascenic off until ’09

Students in some local towns are going to have an unusually long Christmas break this year.

Mascenic School District officials announced Monday that schools in Mason, New Ipswich and Greenville wouldn’t reopen until Jan. 5, after the district’s holiday break.

The decision for the prolonged closure, Mascenic officials said, was made based on the excessive ice storm damage in the towns, with a number of streets that remain blocked and people still without electricity.

The district’s Christmas break was due to start Dec. 24, but Monday’s announcement means students in those towns will miss eight school days in December, going back to Friday of last week.

School has been canceled in all local school districts since Friday, and most chose to keep students home again Tuesday. Mascenic was the only local district to cancel school beyond Tuesday.

School officials in Nashua and Hudson made the decision to reopen schools today.
“We think it’s time to open school up,” said Nashua Superintendent Christopher Hottel shortly after the decision was made Monday afternoon.

In Nashua, the storm left several schools without power. Broad Street Elementary School was the last school without power, and it got power back sometime late Sunday or early Monday, Hottel said.

With power back to all schools, the next immediate concern was being able to transport students to school, he said.

Hottel and other district staff spent much of Monday getting up-to-date information on access to roads from city officials.

Hottel said road access improved enough to make the decision to have school today. Some roads still had limited access, and Hottel said the district was going to do its best to get to normal bus stops.

He encouraged parents on streets with limited access to escort their child to make sure they are picked up or make alternate transportation arrangements.

Even though schools will be open, there are still thousands of people in the city without power and many families have temporarily relocated to other areas. Hottel said the district would grant excused absences to children whose parents can’t get them to school.

“We realize this is an emergency,” he said.

Hottel said for families without power that are still in the city, sending the children to school will give them a “safe, warm and secure” place to be.

Hottel said that he had also spoken with building principals and the he was confident of a strong turnout among staff.

The long stretch of cancelled school days raises the question of how this will impact the school year. School days that are cancelled due to the weather have to be made up at the end of the school year.

Although a state of emergency has been declared, officials with the state Department of Education said Monday that this is no exception and that districts will be expected to make up any missed days.

That doesn’t necessarily mean all missed days will be made up, however. The state in the past has granted waivers when there have been extreme circumstances leading to several consecutive days without school.

Hottel said that even though school will resume Tuesday, the emergency shelter set up at Nashua High School South would remain open.