More Washtenaw County students will have day off from school on Election Day
Students at half of Washtenaw County’s public school districts will not be at the polls this Election Day — but they won’t be in school either.
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Whitmore Lake has back-to-back PD days Monday and Tuesday, and at Willow Run schools, students are required to report for a half-day with professional development for staff in the afternoon.
Schools, as well as churches, have been polling locations for a very long time. But after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the heightened security that occurred as a result, schools began to question how they were dealing with the public mixing with students on Election Day, said Scott Menzel, superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.
Menzel said when he was superintendent of Whitmore Lake Public Schools, which was from 2002 to 2007, Election Day security was of great concern among parents for the last three or four years he was there.
“Many school districts finally decided it just makes more sense not to have students there,” he said. “I think probably just before I left (Whitmore Lake) was when we made the change.”
Spokeswoman Liz Margolis said this is Ann Arbor Public Schools fifth year of no school for students on Election Day. The professional development day for staff began in 2008, with the Barack Obama-John McCain presidential election.
In Ann Arbor, the school calendar and professional development days are negotiated items with the Ann Arbor Education Association, Margolis said. She also cited safety concerns as the reason for the scheduling.
Margolis said 23 of Ann Arbor’s 33 K-12 schools are polling locations, and most of those are elementary schools.
“Obviously, we are really impacted every four years when we have a national presidential election with a lot of proposals on the ballot and higher voter turnout,” she said. “I remember when (Bill) Clinton was elected, my polling location was Bach Elementary and I stood in line for three hours.
“People were meandering through the hallway during the day and obviously that’s not a good situation.”
As a polling location, there is also work and setup involved on the part of the district, Margolis said.
“We work very closely with the city and Pittsfield Township things have been in the works for months now. There is a lot to coordinate. Everything from delivering all of the voting machines the day before and working to get building access for volunteers and signage out,” she said.
“Some of the polling locations use the gym or the media center, so kids couldn’t have gym or media that day. There was always this ongoing juggling. We decided it was just a lot cleaner not having students in the buildings.”
Margolis said teachers at AAPS work a full day and during normal school hours, so the professional development day is not to give staff extra time to vote.
She added AAPS traditionally has had a PD day in November. It typically was conducted on a Monday, but the district moved it to election Tuesday to kill two birds with one stone, she said.
Read more on Election Day voting and school security issues here.
- Find your polling location here.