Superintendent Randy Bell, who now, with SAU staff, must have a plan to the school board by next Monday, March 30, and have kindergarten in Hudson for September.
As part of their lawsuit that asked for full funding for all kindergarten costs, the Hudson School Board also sought a temporary injunction that would have exempted them from starting kindergarten until their lawsuit was heard and resolved. This week the board learned that the temporary injunction had been denied.
In the denial response, the court outlined the provisions of the kindergarten bill that was passed by the legislature, including the 75 percent construction costs for permanent classrooms, the willingness of the state to pay for portables for three years and to pay a per pupil cost. The other option is to have the state build a “code compliant” Quonset hut that will have no heating and no bathrooms for the district. However, if the district takes the Quonset hut option, they will no longer be eligible for any permanent construction aid.
As soon as Superintendent Randy Bell got the court decision, he called Ed Murdough, Administrator III, who is in charge of construction activities for the Department of Education. Murdough confirmed that Hudson was eligible for portables and for funding for furniture.
The school board met in emergency session Tuesday night. Bell explained their options and summarized the current status. In a very brief meeting the school board moved to drop the lawsuit, because if the suit is not heard before school starts the very fact of starting kindergarten negates the constitutional issue and the lawsuit might be dismissed.
Registration for half-day kindergarten will begin April 1. State law does not mandate busing kindergarten students, and when asked if Hudson students would be bused, Bell said he doubted it. “I’m looking at all options to have a quality program.” The board is hopeful that parents who plan to enroll their students will respond to the April enrollment, as they have to hire teachers and plan for materials.
Other districts who have been ordered to have kindergarten are also not offering full busing. In many of the districts, parents will be required to provide transportation both ways, and in others, such as Litchfield, parents will provide one-way transportation. It is too soon to tell if Hudson will offer transportation or not.
“Our goal is to offer a program that has the same quality as our other educational offerings,” said Bell. “The board will meet again Monday, and I will have other topics for them to discuss.” Bell noted that the district would get $1,725 per pupil in October to help offset some of the costs. However, the ‘no’ vote at the March polls continues to worry him. Bell reported that the school board attorney and the Attorney General have met and will seek a ruling that the constitutional mandating an adequate education, which the state has ruled includes kindergarten, will outweigh the “’no’ means ‘no’ law” and the taxpayers’ vote in March. “The majority of the voters voted ‘no’. Now they will be upset that we are starting kindergarten despite their vote, while the parents of kindergarten students were upset when they thought that we weren’t starting kindergarten. No matter what we did someone was not going to be happy.”
Donna Ohanian, a long-time kindergarten proponent, in the audience as school board member Rick Nolan makes a motion to implement kindergarten for September of this year.
Police officer Matt Keller locks and loads the Dodgeball as he gets ready to set, aim, and fire the Dodgeball against his opponent.
The competition goes back to childhood. Hudson Memorial School Assistant Principal Lori Robicheau and Hudson Police Officer Matt Keller have been duking it out for decades.
“It started out years ago as a jovial competition between the Hudson Memorial School (HMS) staff and the Hudson Police Department (HPD). Over the years we have had some competitions where they have won a couple and we have won a couple,” commented Robicheau. According to Robicheau, going into the Dodgeball competition, “We were tied 2-2 for the events we have competed.”
Over the years, the teachers and staff of HMS have lost a flag football game to the HPD, won the rematch game of flag football, lost a softball game, and then won a basketball game.
“We challenged them to a volleyball game but they told us they did not have enough skill, and wussed out.”
“Knowing that they had no skill in volleyball, I thought I would challenge them to a ‘no skill’ game called Dodgeball,” continued Robicheau. “To make it more fun, we thought it would be fun to invite the Hudson firefighters too.”
Teams and rules were organized in accordance with the National Amateur Dodgeball Association (NADA). Teams of five, dressed in gym shorts (except for Fire Chief Shawn Murray who chose to wear jeans and a T-shirt), entered the arena to do the battle of serious Dodgeball competition.
Judges were selected and the official rules of the NADA were evoked. Announcements were made and rule clarifications were communicated. And then the beginning word of the competition was bellowed: DODGEBALL!
HMS sponsored two teams of five players each, while the HPD and the HFD sponsored one team of five players. In the end, HPD would stand victorious, as they would “school” all challengers who came before them on the court of Dodgeball.
SRO officer Billy Edmunds was eliminated from competition when he took a soft shot to the belly.
Taylor Morin of the HFD fruitlessly attempts to evade the Dodgeball and becomes eliminated from the game.
The conservation commission recommended against Fairview building over wetlands.
The Fairview Nursing Facility at 203 Lowell Road in Hudson is going to have to wait a while longer before pursuing any plans of expansion. Despite purchasing the remainder of the Hardy Farm property adjacent to the existing facility and naming a construction company to work on the project (Keach-Nordstrom Associates, Inc. of Bedford), the conservation commission voted to make an unfavorable recommendation for the expansion of the home in their meeting on February 9.
“They all voted against it,” said State Representative Robert Haefner, the chair of the Hudson Conservation Commission, referring to the other members. “And their logic—and I understand the logic—was there are two small [designated] wetlands on the property, and the building is going to go right over on top of them, and the wetlands would just be filled in and built over.”
Haefner was the only voting member of the commission who voted for the expansion. He was also the only voting member to have gone on the original site walk in December.
“As it turned out,” said Haefner, “there were two of us that showed up for the site walk, because the site walk was scheduled during the ice storm.”
A parking lot resulting in “impervious surfaces” was one of the concerns expressed in the February meeting. It was also pointed out in the minutes that “preserving wetlands will attract birds, which will be enjoyed by the residents.”
“My position was I’ve seen the wetlands,” said Haefner. “I really have a tough time calling them a wetland. Especially one of them that looks to me like it’s a depression in the ground that was probably an old manure pit.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.” Despite a history of being drained or flooded for economic use, wetlands are now currently protected as a vital habitat for plant and wildlife.
Fairview itself is currently divided into the Fairview Nursing Facility, with 101 beds and seven private rooms, and Laurel Place, an assisted living facility on the same property with 24 apartments.
“They eventually want to enlarge the nursing home,” said Haefner. “I think what they want to do is take what’s now assisted living in the existing nursing home, make it all nursing home, then build a new building right next door that will be a larger assisted living.”
Fairview was unavailable for comment, but the issue is not dead in the water. Currently there are plans for a second site walk in order for the commission to reconsider their decision.
“We have set up a new site walk [in early April] so that everyone can see the property,” said Haefner. “In the meantime, the conservation commission has asked [Keach-Nordstrom Associates] to re-look at their plans [to see if] they could avoid putting a building over the top of the wetlands.”
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