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New York officials have removed canisters of potentially explosive ether from four schools where they have been stored as emergency medical supplies since the 1960's.

The supplies were removed from Attica Central School, Attica; Lakeshore Central High School, Angola; South Louis Central School, Port Leyden; and Beaver Falls School, Beaver Falls.

The schools were among the approximately 2,000 sites nationwide equipped with materials for "packaged disaster hospitals" by the federal government more than 20 years ago. The program was designed to provide care for casualties that could result from a nuclear attack or natural disaster. The sites, which included other public buildings, were equipped with enough medical supplies for a 200-person emergency hospital. The ether included in the supplies can explode if jostled.

When the federal government discontinued the program in the early 1970's, it advised states to dispose of these potentially harmful materials. Federal officials said last week that they did not know how many schools are still storing these aging medical supplies, or how many states and local officials have removed the supplies.

New York state officials discovered the ether last month when they conducted a survey of packaged disaster hospitals. The inspections were prompted by reports that two other elementary schools were storing medical supplies that included ether. The schools were evacuated, but no ether was found.

Districts in New Hampshire would be given greater flexibility to meet standards for elementary schools, under a plan proposed by the state board of education.

Under current rules, adopted in 1987, schools must employ certified librarians, music and art specialists, and a specified number of teachers and administrators, among other criteria, to receive state approval. The new proposal would enable schools to present a plan to the state board demonstrating that they can provide the needed services without the required staff.

"This is not an attempt to water down the standards," said Judith Fillion, director of the state department of education's division of standards and certification. "It is an attempt to allow school districts to be innovative in the ways they meet the standards."

But Marilyn Monahan, president of the New Hampshire branch of the National Education Association, called the new standards "sub-minimal," and vowed to oppose them.

"Rather than deal with the standards the board said were necessary, and how to finance them," she said, "the board said, 'Let's change the standards."'

The board is expected to give final approval to the plan following a series of four public hearings that began last week. It would go into effect after a review by a legislative committee.

The rapidly changing political landscape of Eastern Europe has prompted the North Carolina Department of Education to withdraw three now-outdated questions from its forthcoming 6th-grade social-studies test.

The questions from the three-year-old test asked students to identify a reason why the government of Czechoslovakia is friendly to the Soviet Union; which among four countries (Albania, Cuba, the United States, and Poland) has a democratic government; and for which kind of candidates Soviet citizens are expected to vote in an election.

Written instructions for the 60-question test, which is scheduled to be administered the week of March 19, had suggested that teachers tell students to answer the questions as though the region's moves toward democracy over the past six months had not happened, according to Kay Mitchell, a spokesman for the department.

However, she said, top department officials rejected that idea, and instead decided to scrap the questions. She added that the department would also revise tests for 3rd and 8th graders, which will be administered in later years.

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