Concord School District cancels school on primary election day, citing safety concerns

  • Broken Ground School, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 9/7/2022 2:45:08 PM
Modified: 9/7/2022 2:41:21 PM

Citing safety risks to students, the Concord School Board voted to cancel school district-wide on Sep. 13 while primary voting takes place in three elementary schools.  

Rather than cancel classes at just Abbot-Downing School, Broken Ground School and Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, board members voted 7-0 to cancel school for all Concord students and staff on Tuesday.

After recent ward redistricting, the city of Concord uses three elementary schools as polling locations along with Beaver Meadow Golf Course, its two community centers, and several houses of worship.

The main reason for canceling school, according to Superintendent Kathleen Murphy, was due to the safety risk of giving outsiders access to school buildings while classes are in session.

In New Hampshire, there is no law preventing people from bringing guns into polling places. Additionally, in June, Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 1178, which prohibits the state from enforcing federal gun control laws, like the Gun-Free School Zones Act.

“I certainly understand the sensitivity and concerns of safety in light of the events at Uvalde the past year, as well as some of the changes in laws that affect our schools during voting time,” said Board President Jim Richards.

Murphy said at the meeting that “too many factors” were preventing them from holding classes on primary day, including parking for school employees and voters, and adequate ADA accessibility for both groups.

“Our schools are owned by the people. Yes, they house schools, but they are facilities that are the community’s facilities and it’s good that we are a part of that,” Murphy said.

One reason for canceling classes at all schools was to allow older siblings at the middle and high school to help out with childcare for younger siblings if needed.

“This is going to be extremely disruptive to families, I just think we have to acknowledge that,” said board member Pamela Walsh. “To find childcare in less than a week is going to be very difficult for families.”

Several board members expressed frustration that they had to close the schools to accommodate voting, but all agreed that it was necessary for student safety. The board has tasked one of its committees with looking for alternative solutions for future Election Days.

The general Election Day on Nov. 8 is already scheduled to be a professional development day for Concord school employees, with no classes for students.

“I commend the administration and the police department in trying really hard to work this out, but seeing that they can’t, I don’t think we really have any choice,” board member Gina Cannon said. “As disruptive as it’s going to be, the paramount responsibility is the safety of our kids.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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