District 203 schools consider canceling school on election days

Zoe Kennedy and Laaiba Mahmood

District 203 schools are considering canceling school on election days starting in the 2020-21 academic year. Polling locations such as Kingsley Elementary, Jefferson Junior High, Madison Junior High, Ranch View, Steeple Run and Riverwoods are the main reason for the considerations.

Based on statistics from the Chicago Board of Elections, the Chicagoland area’s voter turnout is increasing. In 2018, there was a 60.67 percent voter turnout compared to the previous highest midterm election turnout of 58 percent in 1986.

The district contemplated a similar change in 2016 but decided against it.

“It was thought that polling at schools was a teachable moment for students and that schools should be made available for voting because they are taxpayer-supported institutions,” according an article in the Naperville Sun.

However, there was an incident between a voter and student at a District 203 school, and student safety is a priority.

“I would not describe it as something that put anyone in danger, but there was an interaction between a student and voter that we would rather not have,” Chief Operating Officer Bob Ross said at a Board of Education meeting. “I think that not having school on Election Day would have a positive impact on students’ safety and security using those days as either a day off or as a fall break or as an institute day could be beneficial.”

Indian Prairie School District 204 has canceled school on election days because of safety reasons as well, and since 2016, has continued to have schools cancelled on general election days.

Gianna Ptaszek, a freshman at Neuqua Valley High School, will not be able to vote until 2022 but believes the change has been beneficial for students in District 204.

“Having school off on election days will give kids the opportunity to vote because they won’t have school or homework preventing them from doing so, and everyone enjoys a break [from school],” Ptaszek said. “I am still able to have finals before winter break.”

Another main concern with applying the calendar changes is that it would impact the breaks and preexistent schedule for all students. The district will need to balance out attendance days when it comes to trying to keep final exam days for high schoolers before winter break.

At a Board of Education meeting, members discussed the plan to start later in August which would force the last days of school to further be delayed to ensure all attendance days are accounted for.

 “We have identified that we think it would be beneficial to our students and to our adults in our schools to have a day [off], so a short two-day break tied in with Election Day is something we’re interested in exploring,”  Ross said.

Naperville District 203 plans to have a draft calendar approved by February at the soonest.