School buses: good for transporting students, demo derbys ... and now wifi hot spots

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Wifi bus organizers and volunteers gather to plan the particulars of their effort to offer free wifi to students who are practicing remote learning but have no online access at home. (Courtesy photos)

Editor's note: We continue to run city updates on the coronavirus in this space every day. If you have a local COVID-19 story you want us to know about email

ROCHESTER - With the city well into its second week of remote school learning, restaurants restricted to take-out and renewed calls for social distancing, the resiliency, ingenuity and generosity of its people take new shape every day.

On Tuesday, Rochester Schools deployed buses throughout the city setting up instant wifi hot spots so students without access to wifi at home could get their schoolwork done.

The locations are subject to change due to signal strength, so students should stay abreast of where the buses will be on a daily basis through remote learning access points or the Rochester Schools website or Twitter feed.

So far nine buses are being used in the innovative program, but more could be added with the help of Student Transportation of New Hampshire, which operates the school system's normal busing needs.

The buses, which offer a 300-foot radius of wifi coverage, will be deployed every weekday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and come equipped with sign-in and password information.

GERRY'S TO THE RESCUE - Volunteers with Gerry's Food Pantry will be handing out food to needy residents at the Rochester Community Center on Mondays and Fridays from 1-3 p.m.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday there was still just one Rochester resident who had tested positive for the coronavirus. The unidentified victim is being treated at a Massachusetts medical facility.

In Strafford County the number of those who tested positive rose to five. Statewide, the number rose on Tuesday to 108, up seven from the day before.

On the food front, new hours for Gerry's Food Pantry have be reset to 1-3 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays at the Rochester Community Center.

Organizers urge those who are current clients to present their ID as they enter the center from the road across from McDonald's. New clients should call ahead at 603.330-3468.

The food pantry is also putting out a call for increased donations as food requests are expected to spike in the coming weeks.

Donations and Support

Donations and support continue to pour into the city with both residents and businesses stepping up to help those in need.

Donations to the city so far include:

Dozens of pizzas donated to needy families from Charlie's Pizza (224 N. Main St.)

$1,500 worth of cleaning supplies, eye protection, gloves and other supplies donated by Lowes to the Rochester Housing Authority

Toilet paper donated by Walmart to the assisted elderly living homes at the Rochester Housing Authority

More than 1,500 gloves and 100 masks donated by the Rochester's School Districts Career and Technical Education Center

"During this difficult time it is amazing to see how much this community supports each other," City Manager Blaine Cox said on Tuesday. "It is a true testament to how strong Rochester is."

Those wishing to make donations should email

Police, Fire and EMS Services

The Rochester Police and Fire Departments are seeking additional personal protective equipment, including goggles/face shields, ponchos, cover alls, and N95 masks, city officials said. Those interested in making a donation of supplies should call 603-330-7127.

City officials also assure residents that the Rochester Police and Fire Departments are fully staffed and prepared to respond to any emergencies. They remind residents that officers, firefighters and medics may appear different and may be wearing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) when responding to calls and their interactions with the public will be different, out of an abundance of caution and for the safety of first responders.

More importantly, if emergency, fire or medical services are needed, residents should inform the 911 dispatcher if they or anyone they have been in contact with is experiencing signs and symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus. The dispatcher should also be alerted if individuals or anyone they live with or have come in contact with have been required to self-quarantine.

When requesting police, fire or emergency medical services, when possible, safe and feasible, residents may also be asked to meet first responders outside their homes.

EOC Operating

The Rochester Emergency Operations Center, located in the City Hall Annex, opened Monday and will operate Monday-Friday until it is no longed needed. The EOC will allow staff from multiple city agencies as well as state agencies, utilities and federal agencies to work together with the City of Rochester. The Rochester Public Schools and local healthcare facilities are also in contact with the EOC.

Public Meetings

At this time, per new guidelines handed down by the attorney general and the governor's office, meetings will not be open to the public. All meetings will be conducted remotely and broadcast live to the public. We will offer multiple ways for the public to interact with us and offer their input.

They mail email us up to , but no later than 5 p.m. on the day of the meeting to

They may leave a voicemail by noon on the day of the meeting at 603-330-7107.

Public may also submit their written comments by mailing them to:

City of Rochester

C/O Public Input

31 Wakefield St.

Rochester, NH 03867

All mail must be received a minimum of 5 business days prior to the meeting date.

All email, voicemail communications and written correspondence will be included with the Council packet as an addendum.

Social Distancing

The City of Rochester and state and federal public health officials urgently encourage that all residents practice social distancing and remain at least six feet away from others while avoiding congregating in groups larger than 10.

Social distancing will help to minimize exposure among people, especially given that COVID-19 is highly contagious and people may be contagious prior to exhibiting symptoms.

Walking in outdoor recreation areas in Rochester is allowed, so long as social distancing practices are maintained.

Scam Warning

Police Chief Paul Toussaint and city officials would like to remind residents to be vigilant of potential scams around COVID-19, like requesting donations or selling products claiming to cure, prevent or detect the virus.

Residents should not partake in any COVID-19 testing from door-to-door solicitors, people who approach them at grocery stores or other community venues, solicitors who call requesting financial information in return for a test or mail COVID-19 test offerings.

Residents should never give personal information, Medicare numbers, money or home access to people soliciting tests. If a testing kit is mailed to you, you should not accept the test. Return the test to the sender and alert local authorities immediately.

The New Hampshire's U.S. Attorney's Office provides these tips for residents to protect themselves from other scams and frauds:

Watch out for high-priced or low-quality products; report any retailers that inflate prices on products like hand sanitizer and face masks.

Beware of false and misleading information being spread online. Use reputable sources such as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Keep an eye out for unauthorized or fraudulent charities or solicitations. Before donating to a coronavirus charity, make sure the charity is legitimate.

If anyone has questions or feels like they have been victimized, they are encouraged to call the Rochester Police Department at 603-330-7127.

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