MMSD employee pushes to have staff development days held on election days

Published: Feb. 5, 2018 at 6:46 PM CST
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"The way it stands now, during election days, the doors are left open. So that people can come in from the community to vote."

It's a longstanding tradition for schools to host voters on election day.

However the practice worries Dena Jenks, a longtime secretary for the Madison Metropolitan School District. She fears that opening school doors to the public on election days could put students at risk.

For twenty years Jenks has been trying to change the way polling is done in schools.

"I've been talking to my principal and everybody that will listen," said Jenks.

Her proposal is for the District to schedule staff development days on election days.

"Those are days when there are no kids in the building anyway."

Joe Balles, a former Madison police officer and now the District's Safety and Security Coordinator, says they work to keep kids safe.

"We do take steps to make sure to separate the polling activities from the rest of the school."

Their efforts to ensure student safety is not limited to election days.

"We do everything we can to make sure that the 27,000 plus kids that go to school in the Madison Metropolitan school district can do so in a very safe and welcoming environment every single day of the school year."

Balles also says that measures are taken to prevent voters from wandering.

"We do not allow people that are coming to polls to have ingress to any of the official school area," Balles said.

25 of Madison's schools are polling places, and Balles says he is not aware of any reports of misconduct.

Jenks, however, worries about the potential risk to kids.

"Its a very unsafe practice that the district has of allowing strangers in a building with the kids," said Jenks.

Balles said, "If anybody wanted to come into the school they would have to go through our school visitor welcoming center at all the schools.

The MMSD says they have no plan to schedule staff development days on election days, because parents prefer students to have days off from school on a Friday or Monday.

There is an election day on February 20th, and a MMSD staff development day on February 8th.