LONDONDERRY — The Londonderry School Board is considering a revamp, and in some cases, additions to its district policies relating to disabled and disadvantaged students to reflect the changing times.
Among the policies being considered are those dealing with homeless and/or economically-challenged students, as well as students with service animals.
A first reading of the policy updates will take place during the school board’s next meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at Londonderry Town Hall. If the board ultimately approves the new policies, they would become effective Jan. 1.
According to Pupil Services Coordinator Kim Carpinone, the district’s existing policies relating to students with disabilities, along with some other pupil services, were out of date.
Carpinone said some of the policies on Londonderry’s books date to the late 1970s, while certain areas, such as enrollment options for homeless students, aren’t addressed at all.
After consulting with the district’s attorneys, Carpinone recommended a list of updates and additions to bring the district into compliance with state and federal mandates.
Under the new ordinance outlining enrollment for homeless students, those students would be legally eligible to either attend the school they’d previously attended when their families had permanent housing or attend a school in the area they’re temporarily living in.
The ordinance specifically states that such students will be “enrolled in a school according to their best interests,” which is defined as allowing them “to the extent feasible” to continue attending his or her school of origin unless doing so is contrary to their wishes of the child’s parent, guardian or, in some cases, their state-appointed liaison.”
Transportation services for such students would be comparable to those offered to other students attending the same schools. In cases where a student residing in the Londonderry district continues to attend his or her school of origin in another town, the Londonderry School District would share in transportation costs with that respective district.
Under a new policy on service animals in schools, students with disabilities and their service animal trainers would be allowed to use their service animals throughout their school day as well as during any school-related activities “when the animal is required to perform work or tasks directly related to the individual’s disability.”
The policy defines service animals as “any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.”
However, the school district won’t be responsible for service dogs’ training, feeding, grooming or care under the new policy, and all service animals would need to be kept on a leash or harness at all times.
The policy also specifically states that students’ parents could be held liable for any dog-related damages to school or personal property, and animals found to “pose a direct threat to the safety of individuals at school or cause significant disruption” can be removed at administrators’ discretion.
Copies of the proposed policies can be reviewed in full on the Londonderry School District’s website, www.londonderry.org.