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Board tightens requirement for class attendance at LHS

LACONIA — The School Board has enacted a new attendance policy at the High School that strengthens the attendance requirements students must meet to get credit for passing a class.

The new policy says that the maximum number of absences — excused or otherwise — from any class is 10 per semester. Previously the number was eight unexcused absences and excused absences didn't count as long as the course work was completed.

Excused absences are defined as school sponsored events; bereavement that is confirmed by a parent or guardian; religious requirements confirmed by a parent or guardian; court appointments confirmed by written documentation; guidance or special education meetings as confirmed by a counselor; college visitations confirmed by a parent and the college; and doctors notes confirmed by the doctor.

Students who are absent from school for part of the day without parental excuse shall be considered truant and will receive zero for all formative assignments that day.

According to board member Mike Persson, who sits on the Policy Committee, high school administrators have said that one of the biggest challenges voiced by private sector employees when it comes to younger employees is some disregard for timeliness and attendance.

He said high school students are at an age when they need to begin to step up and take responsibility for their futures and attendance is one of the key components to success.

The new handbook states that should a student have 10 or more absences, he/she may trigger an appeal process that will review the student's attendance and the reasons for them.

The appeals process will begin with the child's study team reviewing the absences. It the study team determines is one or more of the absences are based on "valid rationale", the administration will notify the parents or guardian with the list of expectations for the balance of the semester.

If the child's study team determines the excuses are not justified, the student can request a hearing that will include the student, the parent or guardian, the teacher of record, the guidance counselor and an administrator.
"The goal of the appeal is to improve attendance and ensure credit through the development of a contract that is supported by all parties," reads the new handbook.

The policy also says that teachers will not take classroom time to help a student catch up on his or her work. The student will have to approach the teacher during his or her non-instructional time and this had not changed from the previous year.

Policy Committee member Beth Arsenault said she was reluctant at first to draw such a solid line regarding absences.

She said she completely understands the need for "seat time" and added that once the committee came up with the appeals process she was okay with the more stringent attendance policy.

"I think it's all going to depend on how well the appeals committee works and who's going to sit on it," she said.

In related action, the School Board also extended the attendance requirements for participation in athletics to all extra-curricular activities.

Member Scott Vachon said he would not support the revised handbook if attendance policies only applied to sports programs.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 12:38

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'Re-imagine Laconia' gets off to slow start at Weirs Beach; more sessions planned

LACONIA — The Planning Department drew a sparse response at Weirs Beach yesterday when it kicked off "Reimagine Laconia," its effort to sound residents, visitors and businesses about the city and its future.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders and her assistant, Brandee Loughlin, outfitted with several lawn chairs and a small table, asked passers-by to offer their perspective either by responding to a set of questions in an interview or writing their thoughts on the underside of cocktail coaster. Loughlin said that although no one agreed to sit for the formal interview, three or four did speak extemporaneously while filmed by a video camera. She said that approximately 30 people submitted coasters.

This was the first of what Saunders called "parking" events, where staff set up a station to conduct interviews. Similar events are planned for other locations around the city, including in Lakeport, downtown, Laconia High School and Lakes Region General Hospital.

The goal of this outreach effort, which is anticipated to be completed over the next 18 months, is to develop a common vision that will underpin the rewriting of the Master Plan. The process is supported by a Heart & Soul Community Planning Grant from the Orton Family Foundation, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the New Hampshire Listens Program of the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

When Saunders outlined the outreach effort to the City Council last month Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) expressed misgivings about the process. "We have to be grounded in the reality of today's economy and the demographic we have to work with," he said. "I see the value in what you're doing," Lipman said, "but the hard stuff you need is coming too late. The concrete things we have to move much quicker. We've got to get moving on the hard stuff."

Since, Saunders has restructured the schedule of preparing the Master Plan. In particular, because the economic and demographic issues are not contingent on the results of the public outreach effort, work on the economic development component will proceed parallel with it. The values and visions of the public, she noted, bear more directly on the section of the Master Plan dealing with land use and would inform the recommendations for planning and zoning.

Saunders replied that the process she described is intended to inform the mission and value statements of the plan, not the specific action steps in the areas of economic development, housing, transportation and so on. She emphasized the importance of engaging as large an audience in the process as possible.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 12:29

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Father-son team accused of running tractor sale scam arrested in Laconia

CIRCUIT COURT — A father and son who allegedly scammed three people out of some money by offering them a non-existant four-wheel tractor with front-end loader attached for a low price are being held on $25,000 cash bail after being caught in the act by the Laconia police.

Joseph Bavis Sr., 47, of 14 Leisure Lane in Belmont and Joseph Bavis Jr. of 222 Hammond Hill Road in Bridgewater are both charged with three counts of theft by deception for enticing three separate victims to pay them a varying amount of money — usually between $450 and $580 – to buy the machine.

The men allegedly met their targets in a downtown parking lot to exchange cash for a fraudulent bill of sale and with a false vehicle identification number (VIN).

The men would allegedly arrange for delivery later in the day, telling the victim that they had to pay off the storage fees before the tractor could be delivered.

Affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said that on October 13, one the victims reported the theft to the Laconia police. Later in the day, a detective called the cell phone number given to him by the victim and left a message saying he would be interested in buying some lawn equipment and had been recommended to someone named "Clif" at this number.

The next day, "Clif" called back and the detective said he was interested in the tractor he had for sale.

After a series of phone calls, the two agreed to meet at 7:45 p.m. Thursday at a business location on Parade Road. The detective brought $780 and made the exchange.

Uniformed police arrived and they learned "Clif" was Joseph Bavis Sr.

Police also interviewed Bavis Jr. who told them he had provided transportation to the rendezvous for his father. He was taken in to custody and gave police permission to search his truck.

Two uniformed police officers searched the truck and found a burnt spoon and three syringes. One of the syringes was loaded with a liquid substance.

Affidavits said Bavis Sr. said it wasn't his because he preferred to smoke his heroin and admitted the aluminum foil found in the truck with a broken, melted pen was his.

Bavis Jr. allegedly admitted to being a heroin addict who injects his heroin.

Police say they found a copy of a bill of sale for a 2009 CAT tractor but determined the VIN was false.

During the interview with Bavis Jr., police said that he admitted he and his father had perpetrated this scam in at least seven places including Rumney, Campton, Tilton, Holderness, Bridgewater, Conway, and Danbury.

Bavis Sr. allegedly admitted to operating in the same communities as his son. He said he sent his son to collect the money because he thought there would be warrants out for his arrest by now.

Affidavits said both men admitted to being heavy heroin users who have been staying at a motel in Conway.

Bavis Jr. said he was currently homeless and living out of his truck or in hotels with his father. He also has a Pennsylvania drivers license. Bavis Sr. told police he was kicked out of his house and staying in motels. Affidavits said both told police they were unable to work because of their drug usage.

Bavis Jr. is also charged with one count of conspiracy to committee theft and one count of possession of narcotics. Bavis Sr. is charged with an additional count of theft for taking the money from the Laconia Police and one count of possession of drugs.

Each is being held on $25,000 cash only bail.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 12:21

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WEEKEND - Rainy days produce big crowds, Pandemonium at Funspot

dLACONIA — The world's largest arcade turns into the busiest place in the Lakes Region on rainy days like the one experienced this past Wednesday when the parking lot was filled and it was wall-to-wall with people inside, so filled in fact that many had to wait on porches before they could get inside.

With more 600 games, Funspot becomes the destination of choice for tourists and locals alike whose outdoor adventure plans have been washed out and who are looking for something to keep themselves busy.

''It's an all-hands-on-deck day for us, sheer pandemonium,'' says Steve Lawton, Funspot business manger. ''Normally we have 11 people working, but on the days when we know it's going to rain we call in another 10 or so and everyone is out straight the whole day.''

On those busy days as many as 2 million redemption tickets are run through the 150 games at Funspot which reward players for their scores, creating long lines at the redemption prize center where, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, the tickets have been run through a counting machine which produces a slip of paper with the number of points earned which can be exchanged for a prize.

Funspot owner and founder Bob Lawton, 83, says that he showed up at the bill changing machine early in the morning and spent most of the day working there, making sure that things were running smoothly with those machines as well as the discount coupon machines, which provide tokens for customers.

''I never got downstairs to see how busy we were there until four in the afternoon,'' says Lawton, who says that Wednesday was the fourth rainy day this summer and that it is those kinds of days which allow Funspot to remain year-round.

''If we could have 10 days like that a summer we could fly through the winter,'' says Sandra Lawton, Bob's daughter and the assistant general manager at Funspot, who recalls that in the 1980s there was summer in when it rained every weekend and there were indeed 10 full house days.
Bob Lawton says that the Fourth of July this year was probably the busiest day ever at Funspot, and that part of a project which will see a new 5,500 square foot 18-hole indoor mini-golf course created was completed just in time for that big holiday weekend.

''We had eight of our bowling lanes closed down because we were putting in a floor for the mini-golf course on the third level and the crew from Bonnette, Page & Stone was able to complete it in time for us to reopen the lanes for the weekend.'' said Lawton.

He said that the new indoor course will replace one of Funspot's original attractions, an outdoor mini-golf course with its New Hampshire landmarks theme, which has been open since 1964.

Lawton said that several of the more famous landmarks, like the Cog Mountain Railroad, will become part of the new indoor golf center, which is slated to hold a grand opening on Nov. 8, Military Appreciation Day.

The course will be available year-round and will be self-service, with vending machines serving customers, and capable of handling as many as 500 golfers per day.

He said that the old outdoors course will be turned into a park area.

The existing indoor retro 9-hole mini-golf course will be dismantled to provide more space for arcade games.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 01:37

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