Election Day 2016 will not be a ‘school day’ for students in the South Bend Community School Corporation.
The cancellation of Election Day classes is a new way of dealing with not-so-new concerns over compromised classroom safety.
Those safety concerns are shared in Mishawaka where eight of the district’s nine school buildings served as polling places last election.
“If there is another alternative, please use the other alternative,” is the message from district principals, as conveyed by Mishawaka Interim Superintendent A. Dean Speicher.
The Mishawaka district has a closed door policy when class is in session. Visitors are viewed and vetted via video before they’re either buzzed in-or kept out at the front door.
The exception to that golden rule comes on Election Day when an open door policy arguably leaves students wide open to danger.
“And we have had to hire some off duty police to help with security at voting sites and of course the school system has paid for that,” said Superintendent Speicher.
While St. Joseph County Clerk Terri Rethlake is sympathetic, she is also practical. “The practical thing is we would like to be able to not involve schools but in some situations in precincts that is really the only building in the area where we can hold an election there isn't anything adequate handicapped accessible.”
By law, school officials can’t say no: any government building tabbed to be a polling place has to open its doors to voters. And therein, perhaps, lies the solution. School buildings have to open their doors to “voters.”
“Same concerns came to us from South Bend schools but apparently they have closed the schools on general Election Day in November this year so we won’t have to worry about children being in the building and disrupting their day,” said Rethlake. “We would like to propose to Mishawaka’s school system and even Penn Harris Madison, we’d like to approach them and see if maybe they could not build that into their school calendar also.”