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January 3, 2014

Pentucket faces problems as students head to school

WEST NEWBURY — Though this week’s winter storm extended Christmas break for most students in the area, children in West Newbury, Merrimac and Groveland woke up yesterday morning to some disappointing news.

The Pentucket Regional School District was the only district in the region to hold class yesterday, as all the surrounding public and private schools shut down for the day in anticipation of heavy snowfall.

Given the adverse weather conditions, many students didn’t even bother to make the trip to school. Superintendent Jeffrey Mulqueen said that roughly 8 to 10 percent of the student body was absent, and those who did make it reportedly encountered a number of weather related difficulties.

Besides the obvious challenges of getting to and from school in the snow, the Donaghue Elementary School in Merrimac also reportedly experienced an equipment malfunction in its kitchen, forcing the school to come up with an alternative lunch to offer the students.

Then once school was out, a bus carrying students in Merrimac was rear-ended by another vehicle at around 2:30 p.m. on Locust Street. Mulqueen said there were no injuries reported and police were quickly on the scene.

Mulqueen defended his decision to open school by saying that based on the forecasts available at the time, it did not appear that the storm would be severe enough during the day to necessitate a closing.

“The storm was anticipated to deliver two to four inches by 7 p.m. tonight, and there was supposed to be a window of clearing coming through in the afternoon,” Mulqueen said yesterday afternoon. “Those things didn’t happen, and that led to our having school today and some of the difficulties people are facing now.”

He added that the decision of whether or not to have school always comes down to student and staff safety, and he emphasized that the administration wouldn’t try to have school in situations that could risk student or staff safety.

School will be closed in Pentucket today, as will each of the other schools in the area.

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