Strangers In the Schools! (Well, Voters. But Still!)

 Hey nhahyzzybs
Readers — See below. Is this happening in your neck of the woods, too? In New York City,  schools have been closed for elections for as long as I can remember, so I don’t feel it is in response to any kind of new fear. But in this school district, perhaps it is. The day is devoted to “professional development,” so it’s not called, “Scared Out of Our Gourds” day. – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: I just learned my kids’ school district in Lees Summit MO is closed Tuesday. This way they don’t have to worry about strangers voting being in the same building as their kids.

Guess all of those Election Day Massacres finally took a toll.

Citizens? Yikes!


46 Responses to Strangers In the Schools! (Well, Voters. But Still!)

  1. Ben November 5, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    When I vote, the closest place in my district is a school, but as far as I can tell, they only close the classroom that is being used and nothing else…

    Guess us Dutchies aren’t as scared.

  2. Josh S November 5, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    I’ve heard of this as a means to not disenfranchise people who are on sex offender registries. They are often prohibited from being within X00 feet of a school. Not sure if that’s the reason, but whatever.

  3. Ben November 5, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    Yes, they are, but you can ask for permission to vote elsewhere in your city…

  4. Donna November 5, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    Schools were always closed for election day when I was in school so I think you are reaching here.

    Our local schools are always open on election day but I can tell that it is kinda a pain in the butt for the school. They use the cafeteria (at least for presidential election years) so the kids have to eat in their classrooms. Not something they can’t live with but definitely inconvenient and something a different school district may decide it wants to just avoid by placing one of their necessary professional development days there. I’m not saying that safety concerns weren’t a reason, but there could easily have been many other reasons.

    School districts have a certain number off days that they are going to take off during the school year. Holidays are set by state law, the rest are up to the school district to place where convenient for the community. My kid is just coming off a 4 day weekend scheduled every year to coincide with a specific college football game, so it is not like there is always some high-minded purpose behind these random days off school.

  5. Sarah November 5, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    Our schools have their cafeterias taken over. Little hard to eat lunch with that going on. Sure, we could eat in the classrooms, but now the custodial staff has a much larger clean up job! Especially in schools with 1200+ kids. Plus, if you are in a district that requires IDs to be shown at a camera before entering through a “buzz to unlock door”, that would be a very tiring job! Of course, if might train people to drive with their drivers licenses again 🙂

    Do you want to come to school to pick your kid up because they got sick half way through the day and be bombarded by the political “people” outside? Me either. I just want to get my kid without all the headaches.

    Plus, our teachers can use the day to plan out some amazing lessons. Oh, and do 30 teacher conferences!

  6. BL November 5, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Around here we mostly vote in churches.

    My own precinct recently moved its polling place from a Catholic church to a Protestant church. I have no idea if that’s significant.

  7. Ann November 5, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    When I was growing up, we had elections in the school during school days all the time. As recently as a few years ago, I voted in a school during a school day. But, this obviously does not surprise me. Three years ago, I moved to Indiana, and my local polling place is a retirement center. Perhaps that will become more and more common?

  8. Sara November 5, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    I wish they’d close the schools here. It’s my classroom they’re voting in so I have to move out for the day.

  9. Snow November 5, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    When I was a kid in NY we always had school on election day and one year we had a Girl Scout meeting after school in the school cafeteria on election day so we all hung around the gym where the voting was going on(across from the cafeteria where the meeting was) and asked everyone who they voted for. I don’t think anyone told us, though.

    My son does not have school today, and as a matter of fact he only has one full week of school this entire month! Last week (though still October) he had a day off for a teacher workday, today he is off for election day, next week he is off for Veteran’s Day, the week after is a full week and the week after that he only has 2 days of school then it’s Thanksgiving and then BOINK! It’s December! I swear it seems like it was just the 4th of July, time is flying.

  10. K November 5, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    I vote at a church, but when I lived in the burbs, I voted at a school and everything was set up in the cafeteria. At my kids school it’s a big enough pain in the butt when the book fair takes over a tiny corner of the cafeteria. There’s no way the kids could eat at the same time voting was going on. Just no room. I think this is a reach too.

  11. Emily November 5, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Where I’m from, voting takes place in empty churches during the week, and dedicated “event” places when they’re not in use. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a school to vote, or even heard of the practice around here. It’s not even a “safety” thing; it’s a “convenience” thing. We have other places that work as polling stations, so there’s no reason to inconvenience the students and staff in the schools.

  12. Mrs. H. November 5, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    I vote in a library basement, so there will be voters and kids in the same building all day once the library officially opens (1-8 on Tuesdays). When I voted at 6:05 this morning another voter was annoyed that she wasn’t allowed to return her books — the book drop slot was in the off-limits area of the library.

  13. TaraK November 5, 2013 at 8:37 am # Thought you’d enjoy this hat tip to FRK.

  14. BL November 5, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    If they’re going to vote in a school, why not the auditorium? That’s one place they don’t *have* to use every day, you’d think. Unlike the cafeteria.

    @Mrs. H
    Oh, and one precinct here uses a public library. I’ve never seen them shut down the library, especially the return boxes. It’s a big library with a special events room they use for voting.

  15. Donna November 5, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    BL – Elementary schools in my district don’t have auditoriums. The cafeteria has a stage that is used if a venue larger than a classroom is needed.

  16. Catrina November 5, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    While it is easy to draw the conclusion that schools are closed in order to protect students from the frightening unknown public (and perhaps, in some places, this is the main concern), there are other factors which make closing schools on election day a logical choice.

    In many school districts (including where I teach) Election Day falls near the end of the first grading period, so we would need to have some type of teacher work day around then anyway. Additionally, closing school to students alleviates parking constraints for both voters and school staff members–especially during Presidential election years when voter turnout tends to be high. Finally, holding professional work days on election day give school staff members more flexibility in their arrival/departure times and makes it easier for them to vote–especially if the district in which they vote is far away from the district in which they work.

  17. Ann November 5, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    We still vote in the schools here. My kids’ school sends home a note just reminding people that it is election day and to be mindful of the extra traffic, extra people, etc. who may screw up the carpool line, or drive too fast through the parking lot… mostly those types of concerns. Voting takes place in the cafeteria which has a door directly to the outside, so voters aren’t really in the main school – just the cafeteria. I’m sure it is a pain for teachers for kids to eat lunch in the room for the day, but it seems to work out fine. The school where I vote is a fancy private upper school, and we vote in some side building where I’ve never seen students!

  18. pentamom November 5, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I think it’s a bit of a leap to worry that schools might be closed on Election Day just because someone said they “might” be, even though apparently no one in authority gave that as a reason. Is that worst first thinking?

    Other here have given lots of sensible reasons why it may be so. I’ll just throw in that everywhere I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, the schools have always been closed on Election Day for all of my 48 years, and even though we have polling places in a variety of places (schools, churches, social halls) every town of any size I’ve lived in has used schools for at least some of the precincts, and yes, it tends to take ever either the cafeteria or gym (or, as in many elementary schools, both, because they’re the same room.) Using it as a PD day just makes sense, as it is a day when school is closed for the convenience of the voters and the schools, yet the building has to be open and heated anyway, so the teachers can make good use of the time and space, and a certain number of PD days are written into the contract anyway.

  19. brian November 5, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    A town near me where I went to HS recently proposed moving polls from the school for safety reasons. This was my blog post in reply:

    “This is the most short sighted idiotic request I have ever read. Doesn’t she (the Superintendent) realize that a key component to getting school budgets passed is to hold the election in a school? GR can barely get 1/3 of the parents who are already at the school to pick up their kids to vote. Now you are going to try to get them to go to another polling place?

    Not to mention that seeing the schools a few times a year and chatting at a bake sale is a great way to win a couple more votes right at the polls.

    Citing safety and access issues is accusing the hundred voters or so who show up at each polling place and who are paying for the school and her salary of being dangerous. It is an insult to the very voters she needs to get funded!

    Lets stop with this garbage about safety. How about building community, knowing your neighbors and building safety through familiarity? How about the schools embracing elections which are an actual demonstration of real patriotism right in the school. A civics lesson with real live role models. “

  20. brian November 5, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    and my follow up comment in response to comments that voting leads to lost school time:

    “Please let us know how for 30+ years we managed to still educate kids despite hosting polling places. How do 99% of Glen Rock grads get into college with 1-3 days a year where adults from the community went into the gym for a few minutes to vote? And back in the day there were even bake sales! It’s amazing I even got into college much less found a job.

    This issue is highlighting exactly the shortsighted thinking that plagues so many policies involving schools and children today. Maybe the most important thing a 2nd grader learns that day doesn’t help her pass some standardized test. Maybe it is a sense of civic virtue, a pride in the American voting system or a dream to win elected office. Maybe the most important thing that happens that day isn’t even educating a young boy. Maybe seeing his artwork on the wall, hearing his laugh or seeing his smile makes a voter feel pride in the school they support or just brightens the voter’s day.

    Dynamic inter-generational communities are the most important thing we can give our children. Building these bonds protects our schools, our towns and our children. When we isolate children and schools, we erode the very foundation of our communities. “

  21. oncefallendotcom November 5, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    With all the gangbangers, drugs, guns and other assorted criminal activity in the average urban school, I for one am glad schools out where I go to vote. Might be a good place to be if this zombie apocalypse ever comes, seeing as how some street gangs have more weapons than the national guard.

  22. Brooks November 5, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    The place my wife works, a church day care and kindergarten, was the reason that the church stopped being an election location for the past 40 or so years. Never know what could happen, since nothing ever has.

  23. Brooks November 5, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    I wrote that poorly. What I meant was that the church had been a voting site and was recently changed due to the fear of bad things.

    Frankly, I think that we should eliminate Columbus Day as a holiday (since Columbus did NOT discover America), and instead move that day to election day. A national day of democracy – so that more people could vote. Now that would be worth closing the schools for.

  24. Susan2 November 5, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    We vote in schools in my city and often even have special events scheduled in the evening in the schools so citizens can see what the kids are doing. (The schools have a bad reputation here.) There have been complaints for voters that holding voting during a school day is unfair because parents (i.e. people who are likely to vote Yes to school budget increases), who are in the school anyway, will remember to vote more than the general populace.

  25. DaveS November 5, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Up until 2008 my polling place was a local school. Now its at a small church in the neighborhood.

    I think they stopped mostly because of the massive turnout in 2008 vs the usual turnout. Between the teachers and all the voters, parking was quite a big issue, and of course since they only had one small room to use in the school it was pretty cramped.

  26. lollipoplover November 5, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    School is open for kids today, polling has been moved to the firehouse hall. I don’t know the reason for the move, but no voting happens at any of our local schools (which is a shame because kids should see the voting process) with the number of township buildings that have better parking and access anyway.

  27. Amber November 5, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Our schools are still open as polling places 🙂 Voting hooligans and all.

  28. Papilio November 5, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Well, I’m with Ben, of course. They use the central hallway, which is kinda big. So for the kids and teachers it’s mostly business as usual, except for a bunch of people walking in during the day.
    Strangers? Not really, they’re mostly neighbors and parents of (former) students since there are so many little voting stations (schools, retirement homes, train stations, city halls, etc etc).

  29. J.T. Wenting November 5, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Schools are never closed here during elections (though elections here are usually on Wednesdays, when the kids have half a day off, so only morning hours are a bit inconvenient).
    Election stations set up in the school gyms usually, or auditoriums, activities that’d normally happen there on Wednesdays just get rescheduled.

  30. Christine November 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    OUr schools still remain open, and to be honest, given our high voter apathy, I think it’s important for kids to see the voting process.

  31. Donna November 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Several have said that schools need to stay open so that kids see the voting process. Does this really happen in any of your schools? I’ve been voting in open schools for 25 years and I’ve never once interacted with the students. I rarely even see them as they are kept out of the area where voting is taking place.

    Since schools in many areas have been closed on election day for generations, how do those areas rank in voter apathy compared to other areas where schools stay open? How about compared to areas where schools aren’t used as polls at all? I mean if just being in the same building where voting is occurring really elevates voter turn-out many years later, we should see high levels in areas where schools are used as polling places and open during elections and lower turn-out levels in areas where schools are closed or schools are not used as polling places at all. (I highly doubt that you will find results stating that).

    The fact is that kids learn voting apathy or voting involvement from home. If your parents vote, you will likely vote as well. If your parents don’t vote, odds are higher that you won’t either.

  32. Donna November 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    That is not to say that I think schools should be closed for safety reasons. I just see absolutely nothing whatsoever to be gained by schools remaining open on that one particular day so if school districts would just rather close than deal with the inconvenience of being open, who cares. It is not like it truly matters whether the professional development day is on the 1st Tuesday of November or some other random day during the year. I do think they should stop using safety as a buzzword but we now live in a society where “more convenient” = lazy so I can see why they do.

  33. BL November 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    “Several have said that schools need to stay open so that kids see the voting process”

    I recall voting for the very first time when I was still in high school – in a primary election in the spring of my senior year. I had just turned 18.

    The polling place was at a fire hall, not at my school. The fire hall parking lot was a bus stop for school buses, however.

  34. hineata November 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    We don’t have any of these sorts of ‘problems’, if problems they are, because voting is done on a Saturday. Am impressed if you get people who take time off work to vote – y’all must take voting more seriously than we do down here in God’s Own country, lol!

  35. BL November 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    The polls open at 7 AM and close at 8 PM (where I live, anyway, and I think that’s typical), so it’s quite possible not to miss any work.

    I heard there’s a law requiring employers to give so many hours off to vote if requested. I’ve never heard of anyone requesting it.

    A lot of people use what used to be called “absentee voting” and is now called “early voting” anyway.

  36. David November 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    My polling place is a school. Sometimes elections are held on days when kids are going to school. For some larger elections they seem to schedule a day off for the kids.

  37. Donna November 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    hineata – In many states, employees are guaranteed the right to take paid time off work to vote (if the polls will not be open a sufficient time before or after work to allow them to vote). In practice, most people probably vote on their way to or from work unless they work really close to their polling place. I usually tried to vote before going to work, which led to me being late to work since I wasn’t so dedicated as to actually get out of bed early to do it.

    I can’t imagine Americans having a great turn-out for Saturday voting. It’s one thing to ditch out of work an hour early to vote and another all together to miss the kick-off of the big game to vote.

  38. hineata November 5, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Thanks for that, BL and Donna. Yes, I suppose missing the kick-off would be worse than taking some paid work time (if needed) :-).

  39. baby-paramedic November 5, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    We also vote on a Saturday. Schools, churches, council buildings and hospitals are the most common places to vote. Mind you, we have compulsary voting, so almost everyone makes the effort.

  40. Reziac November 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    My high school was a polling place. On election day the gym was full of adults doing mysterious things, and occasional local candidates anxiously roamed the building. That’s how I met the guy who was later elected to the Senate. Shook his hand, even! Oh, the horror!!

    As to where you can vote — you can cast a provisional ballot or deliver an absentee ballot to ANY polling place. You’re NOT restricted to the one you’re assigned to.

  41. J.T. Wenting November 6, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    not sure if they’re doing it in the US, but here they’ve started about a decade ago to place mobile polling stations at train stations and highway gas stations and truck stops.

    Voting went up a few percent when they started doing that, before dropping again to an all time low as people completely lost confidence in their votes having any value whatsoever, given that there’s no real difference left between parties when it comes to actual, rather than promised during election campaigns, agendas, and they all ignore what they promised the voters and do what’s best to enrich themselves anyway.

  42. Donna November 6, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    JT Wenting – I haven’t seen anything like that anywhere in the US. The closest that I’ve seen is in S. Cal, they will sometimes use people’s garages as polling places so many people can vote right in their own neighborhood.

    I admit that I’ve pretty much lost interest in voting. I will do so if there is an interesting local election, but the electoral college makes my vote for president 100% meaningless so I don’t really make much of an effort to do it. I’ll go if it can be done easily, but if I have to go out of my way to do it, I’m pretty likely to blow it off. I imagine that many Americans feel the same way so putting voting booths where they are really convenient might improve voter turnout.

  43. Lauramb November 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    I am 26, and they always close the schools here because they are used as polling places. The main reason is because the cafeteria/auditorium multipurpose room is used, which makes it difficult to serve lunch. This is a big deal in schools where kids rely on free or reduced lunches, and by law they can’t have school and not offer lunch.

  44. Kay November 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    My kids had the day off last Monday and Tuesday election day. We ate out for lunch and the server remarked about it. She said her kids were in school but if she found out there was voting during school hours when here kids were there she’d keep them out of school that day. I asked her why. She said because of all those strangers going into the school. She left before I could rationalize.

  45. Sara November 7, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    I live in Lee’s Summit, MO, and they used it as a staff development day. I didn’t see any problem with it.

  46. Anne November 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    NYC public schools are actually only closed for the general elections. Not sure why, but its certainly not a safety thing as the kids are there during the primaries (and the run-off if there is one, like this year). I worked the elections this year, and they had us in the gym with kids occasionally coming in to grab equipment from the closets, and security didn’t have a problem with us walking down the halls past classrooms to get to the bathrooms.