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Board of Education's Letter to Nassau County Executive Requesting the Option to Decline Polling Place Designations

GARDEN CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

56 Cathedral Avenue • P.O. Box 216 • Garden City, NY 11530-0216

                                     

Board of Education

Angela Heineman, President                                                 Robert Martin, Trustee 

Tom Pinou, Vice President                                                     William Holub, Trustee

 

 

January 23, 2018

 

The Honorable Laura Curran

Nassau County Executive

Office of the County Executive

1550 Franklin Avenue

Mineola, New York  11501

 

Dear Nassau County Executive Curran,

 

The Board of Education of the Garden City Union Free School District respectfully requests your assistance in an effort to have polling places for all elections removed from our school buildings. 

 

For many years, Garden City residents voted in their local schools without incident.  This year was different.  A voter attacked an election worker at the polling place inside the Homestead School, one of Garden City’s three primary schools. These primary schools house the district’s kindergarten and first grade students.  Police were called, they responded to Homestead School, took statements and filed a report. Homestead School, as is the case for several other of our schools, does not have an area that can be safely isolated and secured for polling.  The classrooms are only a few feet from the polling area. 

 

Garden City Schools have both active and passive measures in place to secure our school buildings.  All school employees receive training designed to prevent unauthorized persons access to our buildings. The district has spent thousands of dollars to upgrade our security systems and train our staff.  In all of these efforts, the safety of our students is the motivation and primary concern.  As a former member of the Baldwin Board of Education, you know as well as we do the tragic events that occurred when security was breached in school buildings such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, to name only two. 

 

All of these security measures are subverted on polling days when our schools’ doors are open, allowing anyone and everyone access to the building.  While the classrooms and student areas of the school buildings are off-limits to voters, once inside, a determined individual can easily leave the polling place to access students and staff.

 

This fall, our buildings were open for both the primary election on September 12 and the general election on November 7.  Voting on September 12 took place at the high school, both elementary schools, and two of the three primary schools.  School was in session in those buildings on primary Election Day.  Voting on November 7 took place in the same five buildings.  While parent teacher conferences were conducted on that day, many parents brought their children to the schools during their conference time.  Each May, the school election and the budget vote is held in the high school.  High school students are in the building on that day. 

 

The option of closing schools on polling days has been considered, however this presents a new set of issues for our school district.  New York State law requires public schools to include 180 instructional calendar days.  This requirement makes it virtually impossible to add additional non-instructional days without making unacceptable compromises. 

 

Moving polling places to other suitable buildings such as Garden City Village recreational facilities, Village or County offices would eliminate the security risk to our children.  These local facilities are ADA-accessible, provide adequate parking, and are familiar to residents.  We feel this is an easily accomplished, viable solution.

 

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our deep concerns for the safety of our children and the security of our school buildings on polling days. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

Angela Heineman               Tom Pinou                      Robert Martin                  William Holub

President                           Vice President                Trustee                           Trustee

 

 

c:  Legislator Laura Schaefer

    Senator Kemp Hannon

    Assemblyman Edward Ra