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Clark County election officials ask schools to close for polling sites

The Clark County Board of Elections has asked some school districts to cancel classes on Election Day for student safety, but so far only one district has agreed.

Greenon Local Schools will close school for students on Nov. 4.

The district decided to use the day for staff professional development after elections officials asked to use Enon Primary School as a poll location and requested the district consider using a “flex day” and close the school for students, due in part to safety reasons.

“It’s safer for students for us to close because we can’t lock the doors (on Election Day),” said Megan Anthony, a spokeswoman for Greenon Local Schools.

The district moved a professional development day that had been scheduled for October to November.

Clark County Board of Elections Director Matthew Tlachac discussed the issue with Greenon school officials this summer. He also approached Springfield City, Northeastern Local and Tecumseh Local school district superintendents.

“Safety is a huge concern at the schools. To have school going on and Election Day conducted can be tenuous,” Tlachac said.

Springfield and Northeastern said they don’t plan to make any changes.

Tecumseh Superintendent Brad Martin said his district is considering it for future school years. Four of the district’s six schools, including three of its elementary schools, are used as poll locations.

He said Tlachac approached him about closing Tecumseh schools in late spring after the district had already set its school calendar. The schools will remain open on Election Day this year, and Martin said the elections board has promised to step up security in the buildings.

Next school year, Martin said officials will consider closing its schools and using a professional development day for staff.

“My concern is for the safety of the buildings because we do have to leave the doors unlocked, it’s not a secure building. In one of our buildings, they have to walk through the main hall to get to the voting area. I’m not saying anything would happen, but we need to be careful,” Martin said.

Medway, Park Layne, New Carlisle and Donnelsville elementary schools are used as poll locations.

The district has been concerned about safety at schools on election days, Martin said, and previously had considered making changes.

As more schools are used as poll locations, the district wants to be accommodating for voters, he said, but it has to ensure the safety of students. Nothing has ever happened at the district’s schools on Election Day, but officials want to be cautious.

“I want people to vote. I want people to partake in our election process. However, they’ve got to understand, too, that I’ve got 3,200 kids that we’ve got to make sure are in a safe, secure environment,” Martin said.

Springfield High, Roosevelt Middle and Warder Park Wayne Elementary schools are used as poll locations in the city schools.

Springfield Superintendent David Estrop said he has had several conversations with Tlachac about closing schools on Election Day, but he doesn’t believe it’s necessary.

“It’s not practical to close some of the schools and have some others open. It would create difficulty for child care and create problems for us in terms of accounting for student attendance and problems with employees on if it’s a work day or not,” Estrop said.

The district has school resource officers, he said, and elections officials have committed to step up security at the schools and use high school students as poll workers. Warder Wayne Elementary’s principal will decide whether he wants additional security.

The district had its professional development days set in October, Estrop said, and didn’t want to postpone them until November.

Northeastern High School is used as a poll location, but the majority of that district’s schools aren’t used as voting sites. The poll location is right inside the entrance of the school, Superintendent Lou Kramer said, making it easier to manage the whereabouts of voters.

The district has decided against closing the schools for now, Kramer said.