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Sep 10, 2019 1:23 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton School District Asks Board Of Elections To Keep Voting Out Of The Schools

Sarah Minardi, Wendy Geehreng, Jacqueline Lowey  and Christina DeSanti at the September 3rd Board of Education meeting. ELIZABETH VESPE
Sep 10, 2019 2:32 PM

Citing concerns about student safety, the East Hampton School District has asked the Suffolk County Board of Elections to move polling away from all three of its schools, sending a letter to that effect on September 5.

“This is not a new issue, but as mass shootings continue to plague our nation, school safety has gained significant political momentum in our community,” Richard Burns, the East Hampton superintendent, said in the letter. It was addressed to BOE Commissioners Anita Katz and Nick LaLota and copied to the superintendents of both East Hampton High School’s sending districts and of the Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton schools.

“Parents and the community at large are justifiably concerned about school safety, as indicated by the overwhelming public support for school districts to take steps to enhance school security,” the letter said.

At its meeting on Tuesday, September 3, the East Hampton School Board authorized Mr. Burns to draft and send the letter, which notes “our pleadings over many years … to seek an alternative to the two currently designated school polling locations” at the John M. Marshall Elementary School and East Hampton High School. Voting in local elections is scheduled to take place at John M. Marshall, East Hampton’s elementary school, on November 4 this year.

“It’s now September. The election is November 4,” board member Jacqueline Lowey said at last week’s meeting. “They’re going to tell us they’ve already mailed out mailers telling people where to vote … They’re probably printing them now.”

Ms. Lowey called the Board of Elections “lazy” for not looking into other options.

“They’re putting our kids at risk,” she said. “The taxpayers are paying for school security, and we’re inviting strangers into our schools. It makes no sense.”

According to Kerri S. Stevens, the district clerk, there is a law that gives the Board of Election discretion and jurisdiction over where polling will take place — it is not up to the school districts themselves.

The East Hampton School District has written several letters to the Board of Elections, Ms. Stevens added, and the School Board president, J.P. Foster, has met with the commissioners over the years to come up with a compromise. “This has been going on for a number of years and they’ve chosen not to change the locations,” Ms. Stevens said.

When elections take place inside the schools, she said the district tries to schedule a “staff development day,” canceling classes that so no students are present as strangers enter and exit to vote.

In the past, Ms. Stevens said, there have been some school days scheduled during elections, but the administration tries to design the calendar specifically not to have any students present on election days.

Locally, Ms. Stevens said, there are plenty of other options for voting, including the East Hampton Firehouse and Neighborhood House, where elections have been held in the past. “Why not the American Legion Hall? There are places to consider other than school districts,” she added. “The issue is gaining momentum in school districts.”

The Board of Elections had considered moving Election Day voting from the elementary school to the board meeting next to the high school, which might be more secure because it is separated from the students, but the room was determined to be too small to accommodate all the election districts.

The board discussed adding another room and locking the door that leads to the halls of the adjoining high school, but felt that it would not be a safe option, either.

Board member John J. Ryan Sr. said he thinks other polling places should be explored before considering the high school. “We don’t believe they’re looking hard enough,” he said of the Board of Elections.

“It needs to be pushed, it needs to be publicized and it needs to be fixed,” said Christina DeSanti, the board’s vice president. “At some point they’re going to have to move everything out of the schools.”

In his letter, Mr. Burns invited the Board of Elections to attend a meeting of the East Hampton School Board on Tuesday, September 17, to discuss the matter further.

“It is no longer acceptable to allow our school buildings to remain open to all, without challenge by security personnel. We simply cannot compromise the safety of our students and staff,” the letter said.

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Make Election Day a holiday. Swap the second Monday in October for the second Tuesday in November. All East End schools.
By deepchanel (85), Hampton Bays on Sep 10, 19 3:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Or turn the day into a Teacher Conference Day and add a day to the school calendar.
By ILOONI (13), CUTCHOGUE on Sep 11, 19 7:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Despicable fear mongering for political gain. Carefully building the narrative to instill irrational fear in children in order to make them loathe firearms, so that in the future they’ll be less resistant to the elimination of their 2nd amendment rights. School shootings are extraordinary rare. According to the Washington Post, the odds of being shot at school are 614,000,000 to 1. Each year exponentially more children die in school bus accidents, sports injuries, or from diseases contracted ...more
By MoronEliminator (214), Montauk on Sep 10, 19 4:05 PM
I would imagine you have no children in our schools? The problem, generally with our nation right now is that everything is identified as republican or democrat and nobody can have a position on anything without it being categorically called political.

Irrational fear for our children when they are taught how to protect themselves from school shootings? Was it irrational fear mongering when I was taught how to hide under my desk in case of a bomb during the Cold War?
By ammills (23), east hampton on Sep 10, 19 4:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well...yeah, Bert the Turtle and his "duck and cover" song were pretty irrational if you think about it now.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7583), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 10, 19 4:27 PM
The democrats are essentially saying they do not trust their own constituency. Can you blame them?
By even flow (937), East Hampton on Sep 11, 19 8:34 AM
Do you trust strangers on line at the grocery store?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7583), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 11, 19 11:53 AM
Are they Democrat?
By Po Boy (4863), Water Mill on Sep 11, 19 12:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
No.
By even fIow (11), Westhampton Beach on Sep 11, 19 12:11 PM
Good answer! Do you see the inconsistency in your logic?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7583), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 11, 19 10:00 PM
No, I am just choosing to not answer you. Don't be lazy and do some work for yourself for once. We researched and look at various places and found a fantastic private school for our children. I mean do you even have children of school age? If the answer is no then it should be none of your concern where families choose to send their children for an education.
Sep 12, 19 7:09 AM appended by Preliator Lives
put this in the wrong place, sorry, typing too fast i guess
By Preliator Lives (428), Obamavillie on Sep 12, 19 7:09 AM
I guess I'll respond here then: I don't care where you send your kids to school, but I care if you want to shirk your responsibility to the community by refusing to fund public schools.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7583), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 12, 19 7:24 AM
What a bunch of dramatic idiots. A wacko doesnt care if its election day or ground hogs day. These people on school boards need to get a grip because they are more than happy to have a school budget vote again and again until it passes.
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Sep 10, 19 4:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
“They’re putting our kids at risk,” she said. “The taxpayers are paying for school security, and we’re inviting strangers into our schools. It makes no sense.”

It is the taxpayers that are coming to vote. The same taxpayers that are paying for the school security. Not strangers. Taxpaying residents. Some probably have kids that go to the school.

Mrs Lowey needs to do her homework before she speaks. Or at least think.
By AL (79), southampton on Sep 10, 19 9:43 PM
3 members liked this comment
Smart Those who support losing candidates are completely unhinged.
By even flow (937), East Hampton on Sep 11, 19 8:33 AM
Better solution; close public schools, get rid of the over paid administrative staff and give people vouchers to send their kids to better competitive private schools. Problem solved.
By Preliator Lives (428), Obamavillie on Sep 11, 19 9:03 AM
You care to list these "better, competitive private schools, problem solved."?
By even fIow (11), Westhampton Beach on Sep 11, 19 3:21 PM
No.
By Preliator Lives (428), Obamavillie on Sep 12, 19 6:54 AM
Public schools are the vehicle of class-mobility in America.

Maybe you don't care about poor people having a fair shot at improving their state in life, but I don't think anyone voted for you.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7583), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 12, 19 7:05 AM
Public schools use to be the vehicle of class mobility, now they are indoctrination centers and cash farms for overpaid administrative heavy hucksters. And I do care about everyone having access to education and improving themselves which is why I stated it would be better if parents received a voucher to apply to the school of their choice for their children. Why should you be forced to entrust your children with people you don't know hired by more people you don't know?
By Preliator Lives (428), Obamavillie on Sep 13, 19 2:16 PM
Nobody is forced to send their kids to public schools, they're only required to support them financially in order to benefit society at large.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7583), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 13, 19 2:27 PM
Chiel and AL.... prepare your apology to Mrs. Lowey... Let me explain so someone from outside of our school district can understand...

The exterior doors of East Hampton High School are locked. A visitor must "buzz" to gain entry from a security guard or school employee sitting in an enclosed booth. The visitor must then approach the booth and provide identification and explain their reason for entering the school. If approved, the visitor must then be "buzzed" through interior locked doors.

Now ...more
By harbor (409), East Hampton on Sep 11, 19 10:08 AM
Chief ? AL? Thought so. Must be doing their homework.
By harbor (409), East Hampton on Sep 12, 19 10:30 AM
Many schools schedule staff development for election days citing safety concerns and then have an open door policy for the school budget vote going so far as to schedule as many activities as possible while students are in attendance. Either it's a safety concern or it isn't. They can't have it both ways.
By cmac (181), EAST QUOGUE on Sep 12, 19 1:05 PM
Close the school, take a snow day. Next will be Southampton and on and on.
Public school, open for the public, paid for by the public.
By knitter (1846), Southampton on Sep 13, 19 3:35 PM
Oh Knitter.... sigh. Wouldn’t it just be better to have voting at another location? Clean and simple.. right?

So you’re argument is that there shouldn’t be any security concerns at schools.. anyone should be able to enter and wander halls at their pleasure? Interesting..

By harbor (409), East Hampton on Sep 14, 19 9:56 AM
Hot Tubs,SALE, Southampton Village, SouthamptonFest weekend