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School opening on primary day continues to be an issue

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Discuss impact on schools on Election Day

  The School Committee seems set to reconsider keeping district schools closed during the state primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Earlier this month, the School Committee voted to revise the 2022-23 school calendar presented by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly. Kelly proposed starting the school year on August 24 for teachers and August 25 for most students. However, the majority of School Committee members stated they wanted to start the school year a little later, approving a Monday, August 29 start for teachers with students heading back on Tuesday, August 30. To help create some flexibility in the schedule, the committee agreed to open schools on the state primary day on Sept. 6.

  At Tuesday evening’s committee meeting, Revere Election Commissioner Paul Fahey gave a brief presentation on the Election Department’s use of Revere schools as polling locations. He also asked for flexibility in being able to use the schools on election days.

  Kelly made the case for keeping schools closed on Election Day, even with a light turnout expected for the state primary. During the debate on the vote to keep the schools open during the primary, Kelly said there were some misconceptions about what parts of the schools are used for voting and the degree to which that would impact the operations of the schools.

  Currently, five of the eight district schools are used as polling locations, Fahey stated.

  “I have been working with Mr. Fahey to identify places that we felt were more highly manageable in terms of having elections, and one of the issues that we do have is that in two of our schools the elections are held in the cafeteria,” said Kelly, adding that those two schools are the Hill and Whelan elementary schools. “So trying to operate a school while you have no access to a cafeteria and feeding children becomes a little bit arduous.”

  Kelly said she understands the School Committee voted to open the schools on Sept. 6 in order to make sure the school year ended on a more beneficial day, but suggested the committee might want to reconsider that vote.

  School Committee Member Aisha Milbury Ellis asked Fahey if the city could use other buildings rather than schools as polling locations.

  Fahey noted that there are not many public buildings available as polling locations, and also noted that there has been a move away from using fire stations as voting locations because of safety concerns. “I think in most of the communities I’ve been talking to, and even in my previous experience … I think generally school buildings lend themselves to this use with the way they are built with big spaces, whether it’s a cafeteria or a gymnasium,” said Fahey.

  Milbury Ellis said she understands why the Election Department would want to use the schools, but added that she feels kids should be in school rather than having a day off. “I can see the need, but hope we could use other buildings first before automatically using the schools,” she said.

  School Committee Member Susan Gravellese said she voted against opening the schools on Sept. 6 because of safety concerns. “So we don’t think a lot of people will come out in September, so we’ll just open the schools,” she said. “We could have 50 to 200 people coming in, but we don’t know who they are or their background. They are in the schools with our students, and we don’t know if it is safe for them.”

  School Committee Member John Kingston initially voted to keep school open on Sept. 6, but he said he might reconsider because of the safety concerns that were raised.

  School Committee Vice-Chair Stacey Bronsdon-Rizzo said she would put the issue on the agenda for a possible vote at the next committee meeting.

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