Election Day School Closures

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2008 at 11:48 am

Monday October 27, 2008

At least eight districts in Bergen County have made last-minute decisions to close their schools on Election Day in anticipation of a massive wave of voters.

County election officials have asked most districts to close, warning that a massive turnout for the presidential election could cause serious security and parking problems.

“You’d have hundreds and hundreds of people in the schools, potentially,” said Hackensack schools chief Edward Kliszus, who announced Oct. 15 that his schools would be closed. “On Election Day, the entire school ends up being open to adults that you don’t know. If it’s just a handful of people coming in, that’s one thing, but if you have hundreds.”

School officials in Bogota, Cliffside Park, Elmwood Park, Englewood, Hackensack, Palisades Park, Teaneck and Tenafly also will make Nov. 4 a day off for students and staff, joining dozens of other districts in the county that were already scheduled to be closed to teachers, students or both, election officials said.

Cliffside Park had scheduled a staff-only day but decided to close completely.

“The No. 1 issue is safety,” said John Czeterko, the superintendent of schools in Teaneck. “You get a lot of strangers in the building.”

A sampling of Passaic districts shows that Wayne and Pompton Lakes made decisions early in the school year to close on Election Day. Schools in West Milford, Ringwood, Wanaque, Butler, Pequannock, Lincoln Park and Kinnelon are expected to have classes.

Bergen districts that have decided to take the day off will use one of their allotted emergency days, usually employed for snow days.

Overall, 46 Bergen County districts will either be closed to students or have half days. About two dozen of those districts will ask teachers to stay for staff development, which could limit parking at some schools.

County Superintendent of Elections Patricia DiCostanzo said she and county Superintendent of Schools Aaron Graham hope to persuade as many districts as possible to shut down to avoid possible chaos inside the buildings. Half-days may not be enough of a solution, given the number of voters that could flood polling places early, she said.

“It’s the safest thing to do,” she said. “You can’t lock the doors. You can’t buzz them in. It’s going to be a free-for-all with people walking in.”

The county has seen a spike in registered voters to 544,000 from 483,000 since Election Day last year, an increase of more than 12 percent. The county processed 15,000 new registrations in the first two weeks of October alone.

Those numbers are testament to the level of excitement surrounding the contest between Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The presidential primary earlier this year — particularly on the Democratic side, which pitted Obama against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton — saw a record number of voters statewide.

The Election Day school closings come at an inconvenient time for some districts. The annual teachers’ convention has already ensured that public schools statewide will be shuttered on Thursday and Friday following the election.

“The week is very short,” said Eugene Westlake, the interim superintendent in Tenafly.

Nevertheless, he said, security concerns and the potential disruption to classes convinced him that closing the schools was the proper move.

The last-minute closings could mean some working parents will now have to find child care. In Teaneck, the district is offering limited babysitting service through a youth agency headquartered at the high school.

Not all districts have accepted the county’s recommendations. In Leonia, where two of the three public schools serve as polling places, the board determined that school could remain open.

“We felt we could manage the concerns and keep school going,” Superintendent Bernard Josefsberg said. The district is adding security to prevent any problems, he said.

“Everyone in Leonia knows that parking, even on a normal school day is tight, and that’s not going to change on Election Day. You hope that people will recognize that and plan accordingly.”

Some districts that will remain open on Election Day are trying to accommodate voters. In Glen Rock, for example, teachers will be asked to park elsewhere to free space in school lots.

  1. The quote from Leonia is perhaps the biggest issue that I see with having elelctions during the school day:“Everyone in Leonia knows that parking, even on a normal school day is tight, and that’s not going to change on Election Day. You hope that people will recognize that and plan accordingly.” People won’t plan accordingly. It will be a lesson in “Me First” and “I don’t care about anyone else”!!

  2. PJ still sounds like the teachers pushing for another day off ,my god how did we survive all these years ….

  3. 7:36

    Your comment is ridiculous and insulting. It is best that you not be placed in a position to make any public policy decisions.

  4. yes take the day off vote early vote often….

  5. Our new superintendent has told parents that there is nothing to be done to beef up security for this coming Tuesday. Travell has asked parents to volunteer as monitors. They even joked about not giving out badges but the job is security nonetheless.

  6. One more week till The Carter years Part Two. Break out your sweater and spread the wealth.

  7. could someone explain in laymens terms the 3 questions on the ballot. actually…#3 is understandable…#1 and #2 are CONFUSING

  8. Public Question #1

    Question #1 Reasons to Vote Yes:

    ● Supporters believe the framers of the Constitution envisioned public approval for borrowing since the debt limitation clause was in the 1844 and 1947 Constitution.
    ●State authorities have been used increasingly for the purpose of bonding for projects.
    ●Citizens need to constrain the Legislature from borrowing without voter approval. The November 2007 State of New Jersey Debt Report places general obligation debt (approved by voters) at 2.8 billion dollars. By contrast, the same
    report puts debt subject to appropriation (State authority bonds) at 25.2 billion dollars.

    Reasons to Vote No:

    ●We have a representative form of government. It is the job of the Legislature, elected by the people, to make funding decisions. Voters should not constrain the Legislature which must weigh the need for public capital projects against available resources.
    ●Passage is likely to make it more difficult to address regional capital or infrastructure needs that will not have support of the entire state.
    ●Ballot questions cannot accurately present complicated appropriation issues to voters for an effective government process.

    Public Question # 2

    Question #2 Reasons to vote yes:

    ● Appointment of municipal court judges should be a local issue. Removing the Governor’s appointment power for some municipal judges from the Constitution is the first step toward this goal.
    ●Proponents believe that removing the Governor and Senate from the
    appointment process will make it more likely that towns will explore consolidating municipal courts.

    Reasons to vote no:

    ●The courts in question operate as regional courts and appointment by the
    Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate ensures that the interest of
    the entire region is considered.
    ●The current process makes local politics less likely to play a part in the appointment process. The Senate Judiciary Committee and full Senate are required to vote on the appointment.

  9. 1:40pm,

    If you want to keep the state from taking more of your money vote “NO” on all three ballot questions.

  10. Question 1 is going to help expand government and raise your taxes. Question 2 is going to expand government and increase your taxes.

    Hope that helps.

  11. PJ, Why are you ignoring the Valley Expansion issue? This project will forever change the character of the Village and phase 1 will involve 6 years of construction within a few hundred yards of the middle school. I think it deserves some thoughtful discussion.

  12. 8:51 –

    How exactly is 7:36’s comment “ridiculous and insulting”?

  13. 11:57
    Because this is about protecting our childern not about the teachers wanting a day off.

    The issue is security in the schools.

    7:36 should have changed his/her job, to be a teacher. Seems that he/she is envious of the teacher’s benifits. AGAIN.

  14. I totally agree 7:48! If I understand, it is the parents who are voicing concerns about safety in the schools, not the teachers. 7:36 is looking for just any reason to bash educators.

  15. 7:48 and 5:17 –

    You are joking, correct?
    School Security?

    The voter turnout volume will be exactly the same as it has been in the last 4 or 5 presidential elections and it will be the same people… your friends and neighbors (and the parents of the kids in the schools).

    You CAN’T REALLY be THAT timid and afraid of the world!

  16. 11:29

    Bury your head in the sand if you want.
    Have you been to the airport since 2001.

    FYI every 5 yrs the school’s population turns over, hence new faces, who’s faces, I wouldn’t know.
    I am a war vet. I’ve had my ass shot at and bombed and can say, being timid and afraid is NOT beeing secure.

    Let me ask you, why do you lock your house doors? Have you left your car unlocked?
    This is being secure and gives peace of mind.

    The same goes for schools and the childern inside. Peace of mind knowing that they may be a little bit more secure then if the measures were not taken.


  17. 11:29

    Where were your children when BF had an intruder in the school?

  18. “The sky is falling,” said the Little Red Hen.

    Boy are we paranoid or what? 11:29 is correct, we’re way too soft and weak. Maybe watching too much 24/7 news about murder an mayhem, has warped our sense of reality.

  19. 8:25
    Remember, how many Ridgewood fathers lost their lives because we had little to NO security at airports.

    Do you think that we’ve gone overboard with security at the airports to protect your butt every time we fly?

    Why not protect our childern too.
    It’s not being paranoid to have SOME security in place instead of NONE.
    Frankly I think you’re the one who’s nuts for not wanting anything.

  20. 11:29

    I’m for keeping the schools open but with extra security. Parents are not trained security guards. All it will take is one incident and we will all be sick. The Ridge intruder “looked” like a parent.

  21. To 1:29 –

    A reasonable request.
    I can get behind this as long as it is not over the top (i.e. not necessary to be armed)
    BTW, I also think that parents with minimal training are up to the task.

    To 1:08 –

    Try mixing the black and white together sometime.

    The local Ridgewood schools do not have the same risk profile as an airport.

    BTW, I’m in and out of airports frequently and have no problems taking off my shoes, throwing out my water bottles and complying with all of the other procedures since they are appropriate to that environment.

    Maybe you should consider home schooling since you seem so unreasonably fearful. You never know… one of your child’s classmates may bring a weapon into the school… better to be safe and home school your children in your locked basement.

  22. i still thing this is just a scam to get teachers another day off

  23. yes the evil voting tax payers may bother the children ,how bout we really bothern them and vote the next BOE budget down


  25. There will be no extra security in the schools during the election so who knows who will be walking the halls. The doors will be unlocked for all to enter. I value my children and want to keep them safe I’d rather not have school and for the record the Teachers would rather not have it because of the security issue. Just ask any BF parent how they feel. I know I don’t feel safe leaving my child there on Tuesday.

  26. Maybe those of us who do believe that school should be closed should show up at Monday;s Board of Ed meeting. My child was at BF when the intruder came and has not slept well since. I am very upset that we are being put through all of this. Why can’t the decision just be made and then over with. There will be such a parking issue at all the schools which could also increase the chances of accidents happening. I already know that I am keeping my child home from school Tuesday. I know this is an inconvenienc as I am also a working parent but the children’s safety should come first. Parent volunteers for safety don’t mean a thing. They don’t know everyone.
    This is 2008 things are not like they once were. We have to lock all the doors to be safe.

  27. Extra security WILL be in place at some elementary schools in town during election day, BUT it is going to be paid by… YOUR WONDERFUL HSA MOMS. The BOE has said they do not have the money to help but they have authorized the HSA to purchase their own security for the day. THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE! but true.

  28. 9:13pm – Do you realize that the students and teachers will STILL attend 180 days (state law) regardless of the day off or not? You pay for 180 days of instruction and you’ll get it.

  29. Fact – The board of ed and the HSA will be splitting the cost for the security. Get your facts straight

  30. 7:48 PM?

    The HSA?

    Don’t you mean us idiot parents are paying for it? It is we who paid HSA dues expecting they would be used for school activities and student enrichment and not used to supplement the town’s operations because some BOE buffoon (reacting to some irrational parent, no doubt) decided that Ridgewood polling places require police protection.

    Ridgewood should be providing security if they deem it necessary. In fact if the town thought that holding the polls in the schools were too dangerous to the children, then they are being negligent and should be held accountable. If polling in schools is so dangerous, then the town should hold the polling in other publicly accessible facilities where children are not present.

    Parents should be outraged that their $$ is being used to fund a (fabricated) town responsibility.

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