PORTLAND — Classes are cancelled at two city schools, and at schools in four surrounding towns, to avoid disruptions from expected high voter turnout at school polling places on Election Day.
The Portland School Board on Oct. 4 agreed with Superintendent Xavier Botana’s recommendation that classes at Deering High School and East End Community School should be cancelled Nov. 8.
According to a release from the School Department, parking and traffic congestion on Stevens Avenue is anticipated to be an issue for Deering students on Election Day. Additionally, since voting takes place in the school gym, classes and activities would be displaced, and the school’s layout does not allow for a physical separation of the public polling area from areas used by students.
At East End, many of the school’s programs and classes couldn’t take place because they are in areas used by voters. And with the turnout expected, lines would likely stretch into student areas. Classes at East End were also canceled in 2008.
Although Howard C. Reiche Community School is also used as a Portland polling place, classes there will not be canceled because voting takes place in the community side of the building, separate from student areas.
Scarborough High School, which serves as the town’s polling station, will also not have classes on Election Day.
Superintendent Julia Kukenberger told the Lewiston Sun Journal that with heavy voter turnout, the school day would be disrupted and there wouldn’t be enough parking.
“Because it’s a national election, our first priority is student safety,” she said.
Brunswick Junior High School serves as that town’s only polling station, and will also close. The School Board approved the move at an Aug. 30 meeting. In a message sent to parents, interim Superintendent Howard Colter said “traffic, adequate parking, and safety are at the heart of their concern.”
Brunswick Town Clerk Fran Smith said she made the request to the School Board with the support of the Town Council; cancelling classes would allow for additional parking and greater safety for both students and the public. Smith said Brunswick also cancelled classes in 2012 for the last presidential election.
In Cape Elizabeth, where the high school gymnasium serves as the town’s polling place, classes at the school have been cancelled at the request of town officials.
Town Clerk Debra Lane said there are concerns about anticipated congestion in the parking lot and how having a large number of people in the building would affect classes. She added because of all the people who have to be accommodated in the school that day – from petitioners and exit pollsters to the voters and candidates – the space gets very congested.
Lane said in the past, the town has requested that classes be canceled on Election Day, adding that in 2012 when classes were canceled, there were still significant lines of people.
“We understand it’s a disruption to the school; we don’t request it lightly,” Lane said.
Cancelling classes on Election Day will make for a strange week for teachers and students, because Veterans Day, Nov. 11, falls on the Friday after Election Day. That means students will go to class Monday, have Tuesday off, have class Wednesday and Thursday, and then have Friday off.
In Falmouth, where the high school gym is the town’s only polling place classes have been canceled, although parent-teacher conferences will be held that day. According to Town Clerk Ellen Planner, it is the first time classes are being cancelled to accommodate Election Day.
To avoid future conflicts, the Falmouth School Board’s facilities subcommittee is expected to discuss possible alternative polling locations for future elections.
Portland’s East End Community School and Deering High School will be closed on Nov. 8 to avoid disruptions caused by Election Day voting at the schools.