Richardson ISD announced Wednesday that classes will be cancelled on Election Day due to security concerns.
The district sent emails, voice and text messages to parents on Wednesday saying the "change is being made as a precaution" since some of the schools will be used as a polling location on November 6. The district says there are no direct threats and the change is preventative due to the unregistered visitors who gain access to RISD campuses serving as polling locations.
“When you have thousands of people coming in and out of your campuses, we can get them in certain locations. We can get them in a gymnasium, we can get them in a hallway if it’s wide enough and we can monitor where they’re going but there’s just a lot of foot traffic,” said Richardson ISD Chief Communications Officer Chris Moore. “So, it’s more difficult to manage and maintain.”
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Earlier this year, Moore said district officials approved a calendar for the 2019-2020 school year that set aside the Election Day 2020 as a student holiday. This summer, officials decided to add a student holiday for the midterm elections in 2018.
The change will not impact the rest of the 2018-2019 calendar.
“We had enough [instruction] minutes allotted that we could fold them into that November 6th day. Students won’t go to school. Teachers and staff will have in-service and the school year will finish the same day as it was,” said Moore. “Nothing will be impacted long term.”
“With how big our schools are it would just be too hard for them to figure out who’s supposed to be here who’s not,” said RISD parent Heather Cutting. “Plus, mine are old enough to vote so we can all go vote before the end of the school day.”
Another parent, Kendall Lynch, says she prefers her kids are in school that day but ultimately supports the change.
“It’s interfering with them because this is where I want them to do,” said Lynch. “This will be the best thing to do, just let them have the day.”
RISD says 37 of the district’s 54 campuses serve as Dallas County polling places.
Election administrators are tasked with using public buildings like libraries, recreation centers and city halls, whenever possible.
Schools are often centrally located to voters, but some election administrators say schools also have logistical challenges during high turnout elections.
“Schools are excellent locations to use if it’s not a school day,” said Collin County Election Administrator Bruce Sherbet. “If it’s a school day you have the traffic but also concerns from districts and parents of having a lot of people coming into those buildings, it’s just become more and more of a problem.”
In Collin County, Sherbet says elections officials don’t use school buildings during the 12 day early voting period and try to limit the use of schools on Election Day – especially Elementary Schools.
“All of the elections departments are having conversations about that,” said Sherbet. “I don’t know a single elections administrator in this state that wouldn’t support an in-service day or schools not being open on Election Day.”
The Dallas Morning News also reports that several other large North Texas districts don't expect to follow Richardson's lead. Arlington ISD schools will remain open for Election Day, and Garland ISD hadn't made any plans to cancel classes Nov. 6, a spokeswoman told the DMN.
NBC 5 spoke with officials in Fort Worth, Plano, Allen who say cancelling classes on Election Day is not being discussed in those districts.
Dallas ISD also has no plans to close schools to students on Election Day. A spokeswoman said families in the large, urban district count on school being open as much as possible.
Richardson ISD says it will offer childcare to families that can’t make other arrangements this November 6th through its xPlore! Program. Parents can learn more here.
Richardson ISD says it will continue to take additional safety precautions during Election Day to isolate voting areas from the rest of campus because staff and some daytime care students will still be in schools.