Wallingford schools to close for presidential primary next year

Wallingford schools to close for presidential primary next year

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education voted unanimously this week to cancel school on the date of the state’s presidential primary election next year, extending the school year by one day.

The primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

The 2019-20 school district calendar was approved before the primary election date was known, Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said.

“We will have to close school that day,” Menzo said. “It will not be a day for students or teachers. We will go through the other unions to make sure we are appropriately meeting their contracts.”

He said that other school districts statewide “are making similar decisions.”

Photo ID foul up

Closing schools avoids a repeat of what happened last presidential election cycle, when several Wallingford schools that were used as polling places for the primary election on April 26, 2016, ran afoul of state laws protecting voter access.

School officials, seeking to maintain building security because school was in session, had asked voters to produce photo IDs in order to enter several schools that didn't have a dedicated entrance for accessing the polling location.

However, state law allows voters to show other forms of identification than a photo ID to access the polls and prohibits polling officials from requiring one.

After an investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Commission, Wallingford's registrars of voters agreed in November 2018 to a consent order acknowledging that security procedures at schools violated state law on voter identification requirements.

The SEEC determined the ID policy is well-intentioned because it is designed to make schools safer and issued no penalty, but raised concerns that not finding the town registrars to be in violation could set a precedent that could allow others to work around existing law.

Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, proposed a bill in January that would have allowed schools, when used as polling places, to mandate photo ID for entry into the building if such a requirement is already part of their policy. The bill, proposed to the legislature's Education Committee, died without a public hearing this past session.

Last day of school

The last day of school is now slated for Thursday, June 11, 2020.

Last week, Gov. Ned Lamont signed into a law a bill that allows school boards to establish a firm graduation date, as long as there are 180 school days.

At a meeting this week, school board member Tammy Raccio asked Menzo about the status of Wallingford’s utilization of the new statute, since it may affect contracts for Project Graduation vendors.

Menzo said the school district is “waiting to get more specific guidance,” not wanting to set the graduation date too early.

“The students, while they can graduate, we have to get clarification as to whether or not they still have to return to school after graduation,” he said.

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