Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Observations......from the school office

Yes, today was Election Day and our school is used as a polling place. In my opinion this in itself is a safety issue, but I do not determine such things so I am relegated to sit by and cope.

Luckily the room that we use for voting is accessible from the outside, otherwise I would be listening to the doorbell ringing all day long. On the other hand, this is in direct conflict with our Building Use Policy as all our doors are supposed to be locked all day. There is a problem for handicapped voters also. That outside door has a step up, so we put up a sign for the handicapped voters to use the main entrance.

As I pulled up to the school shortly before 8 a.m. today, I knew that we were going to be in for a show. The streets were full of cars and people were all over the place. Our custodian had been assigned to stand in front of our parking lot along with a row of cones and only allow the staff into the parking lot. I pulled up to the cones and waved and waited for him to move. He kept looking to see who was in the van and finally walked up to it before he realized that it was me. Since I had been sitting there for a bit waiting to be recognized, cars were lining up behind me and once I pulled through the barricade so did one or two others. When I exited my car, the lady who had been behind me was scurrying up to the sidewalk and said that she hoped that they would let her out. I mentioned to her that the parking lot was for the teachers and that the voters were supposed to park on the street. No reaction. She just kept on walking.

At about 8:10 I had to make an announcement for anyone who was parked in the driveway in front of the school, which by the way has a yellow curb, to move their cars so the buses could come in. During this time, we had teachers who were manning more cones on the other side of the school to block off the smaller parking area and keep the voters from parking on the black top behind the school. This didn't sit well with the parents who were accustomed to dropping their children off at the early drop off door in the back of the school. So the phone calls from irate parents began. The highlighted comments are what we were thinking.

"This is nuts." (Yes we know.) ( It wasn't our choice to have voting here.)

"Why don't you have any police there?" (The township clerk is responsible for requesting police at the polling place.) (You would think that they would have taken care of this!)

"How will I know my child is getting into school?" (Give me your child's name and we will call you to let you know that they are safely in their classroom. ) (Did you happen to see that there were teachers that were walking the children to the door? Did you think to actually park your car and walk your own child to the door?)

Observation - I've heard that poll workers get $200 a day to man the polls. We had our custodian and several teachers manning the parking lot and our office staff manning the phones at no additional pay.

So once the buses disembarked and the children were in class the hijinks continued. The people once again began to park in the driveway ALONG THE YELLOW CURB IN THE FIRE LANE. The police must have been called by the people who live across the street as the cars were parking in front of their mailboxes and THE FIRE HYDRANT. It looked like they might have been issuing tickets.

Then at around 2:15 the cones were put into service again to block off the driveway and clear the yellow curb/fire lane so the buses could line up for dismissal. As that approached the front doors were propped open just before the bell rang, just long enough for voters to think that this was easy access to the voting machines. There were several sprints out of the office door to capture these wandering voters (little did they know that their lives were being saved from sure trampling by the dismissed students heading for the door at the end of the day).

And I must also mention that the room the pollsters were in doesn't have a bathroom of it's own so they needed to leave that room to cross the hallway and use the faculty bathroom. Our faculty bathrooms are locked (it's part of our Crisis Response Plan) and each teacher has a key. The pollsters were given a key but for some reason apparently did not want to use it because they decided to prop open the bathroom door with a wastebasket. Again another violation.

Some school districts close their schools if they are being used for voting. I truly believe that this is the safest thing to do. Not because I don't want to deal with the interruptions, but because it compromises the safety of the students and staff. We live in a world of locked doors and allowing them to be open during an event which could become a potential crisis is simply not acceptable. We are inviting trouble. We were lucky today that we were just inconvenienced but this needs to be changed.

I'd really like to know what you think!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my. So much unnecessary stress for the school staff. All public schools in Hawaii are closed on election day regardless of whether it is being used for voting. After what you've described, I can see why it is a good idea. Sorry you had to go through that.


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