'This is one day of the year when we just have the doors flung wide open'--some Anchorage parents concerned about voting in schools

Published: Nov. 29, 2018 at 3:16 PM AKST
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At 9:05 a.m. the doors to most elementary schools in Anchorage lock. No one can get inside unless they are a parent, or the front desk buzzes a person through. That is, of course, unless it's Election Day.

"This is one day of the year when we just have the doors flung wide open and anybody can wander," Lea Filippi, a Government Hill elementary parent, said. "My additional concern relates to just the use of the library. That means for a quarter, or a third of our students, that's just a week when they don't have access to their library time and that means they're not getting the instruction they would normally receive."

After a series of threatening messages at Anchorage high schools, school security is a big topic among parents. The Division of Elections says the director's office had one email regarding concerns about voting within schools and four were sent to the Anchorage office.

The Anchorage School District says it has a long tradition of allowing voters inside the schools during elections and that it's a good civics lesson for students.

"We see it as a positive thing for the community," Ashley Lally, the director of Security and Emergency Preparedness for the ASD said. "We like that the public comes in, gets to see a school and gets to see where their tax money is going to. And, again, for the kids to have access to see what voting does for the community."

Lally says during an election she and school resource officers stop by the elementary and middle schools for inspections, although no one is at the elementary schools full-time during that day.

Lally says over the next year she'll be inspecting the schools to see if there could be better locations within the schools to set up the voting precincts.

"(We'll) do more on-site inspections prior to the elections and maybe just to try to help them figure out the best location," Lally said, "a lot of them aren't security specialists so they don't necessarily know what works the best."

Filippi says she understands that within some neighborhood there aren't other options for voters, but that within Government Hill there are several nearby churches as well as the curling club and dance hall. She also agrees that it's important for children to understand the voting process.

"Students largely aren't seeing the adults voting because the adults are voting in the library and students don't have access to the library during the time that they're there," Filippi said, "so what they see is polling equipment set up in advance and more cars in the parking lot, but they're not watching the election take place."