By ERIN ROLL
Montclair’s schools may be open on Election Day 2019, but with extra security in place at the schools doubling as polling places.
The Board of Education unveiled the expected calendar for the 2019-2020 school year during its April 3 meeting, and with it pondering if this year they should hold classes on Election Day if the town will help with security.
For years, the district closed schools to students on Election Day. The move to hold classes on the day is due to the scheduling of the New Jersey Education Association’s annual convention on Nov. 7 and 8, the same week as elections. Closing schools on Tuesday, and then on Thursday and Friday, would cause too many interruptions for the schools and for families, board members said.
The month of November also contains two scheduled curriculum development and professional development days.
With the exception of Charles H. Bullock School, all 11 of Montclair’s schools are used as polling places.
The BOE is asking the township for help, for both the extra security and funding for that security.
Board members noted that Montclair’s schools are among the few public buildings in Montclair that meet both the accessibility requirements and have the available parking spaces required of polling places.
Along with security personnel stationed at the schools, security gates would be used to keep voters out of student areas.
Katya Wowk, the township communications director, confirmed that the schools and the township had talked about increasing security at the schools on Election Day, but said that none of the details had been finalized.
The subject of school security, especially in light of school shootings, has prompted several school districts across the country to close school on Election Day or to request that polling places be moved to other venues.
Glen Ridge formerly used two of its elementary schools, Forest Avenue School and Linden Avenue School, as polling places. But borough officials made the decision to move the polling places out of the schools for security reasons, especially in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Since that time, voters who formerly went to Forest and Linden to vote now go to the Glen Ridge Women’s Club.
For 2018-2019, Bloomfield closed its schools on Election Day. Verona, which uses its high school and two of its middle schools as polling places, opened its schools on a half-day schedule due to a staff development day.
In New York, the state legislature introduced legislation in January that would prohibit schools from being used as polling places, regardless of whether school was in session for students.
The board considered three different versions of the school calendar before presenting the version that was passed on first reading on April 3.
One version of the calendar had the last day on June 29, which both board members and parents saw as being much too late in the year.
The first day of school will be Thursday, Sept. 5.