NEISD parents react to board making Election Day a holiday for safety reasons

SAN ANTONIO – The North East ISD school board voted Monday to make Election Day a holiday in an effort to prioritize student safety.

“Our 8-year-old has already done training for active shooter and for fire drills and all of the other normal things this year,” said NEISD parent Tina Stolhandske.

The fact that those trainings are now normal is a hard reality for the whole community, given the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that took the lives of 19 students and two teachers.

That’s why a few months ago parents and staff began talking with the North East ISD board about Election Day when many schools become polling locations.

“Having all those extra people on campus is always a concern for parents and for administrators I know alike,” said parent and NEISD Council of PTAs President Debbie Weissmuller.

Both Weissbuller and Stolhandske were thrilled to learn that the NEISD school board voted to approve the holiday on Nov. 8.

The district joins Judson ISD and Northside ISD who voted early last month on the change that will keep voters separated from students and teachers who would normally be on campus during a school day.

“The Texas Election Code requires that public buildings, including schools, be made available for use as a polling place. As a District, we cannot prohibit the use of a school as a voting location,” a press release from NEISD said. “The decision to make Election Day a student and teacher holiday was made with the security and safety of our students, staff and visitors in mind.”

Northside ISD representatives confirm the holiday at their district will be for students. Staff will have a working day.

NEISD will be granting the holiday for both students and staff.

“Right now we are really practicing safety at our campuses, and with that means every single door is locked. And if we have elections taking place at our campuses, that isn’t possible,” said NEISD Communications Executive Director Aubrey Chancellor.

“It helps two-fold with the teachers and the administrators having that opportunity to vote and making it easier for them,” Weissmuller said.

The move may cause inconvenience for working parents like Stolhandske, but she said it’s worth it.

“At the end of the day, I choose my child and staff safety over the inconvenience of providing child care for that day, Stolhandske said.

All the polling locations have not been finalized, but Chancellor confirmed that the latest proposal had North East ISD with 40 different campuses acting as polling sites. The majority of those were at elementary schools.

As for Northside ISD, according to Texas AFT, a union of educators and school employees, Northside made the decision after many of the schools within the district were reluctant to host voters on campus while students are present.

Union officials said the reluctance stems from the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

“Considering the expected higher-than-normal turnout, teachers and staff are especially concerned about schools remaining safe for students,” Texas AFT officials said.

How will the new holiday affect students?

NEISD will stay in school one day later to maintain the 180-day calendar.

“The last day of school for campuses that follow our traditional calendar has been pushed back one day from Thursday, May 25, 2023, to Friday, May 26, 2023,” officials said in a press release. “If your child attends an extended school year campus or year-round campus, your makeup day will be communicated to you at a later date. Those campuses include Serna Elementary School, Larkspur Elementary School, Jackson-Keller Elementary School, Castle Hills Elementary School and the Academy of Creative Education.”

NISD made the announcement prior to the start of school. The last day for schools that follow the traditional calendar is June 1.

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