The Fayetteville-Manlius School District Board of Education voted to change the current school year calendar so there are no classes for all students on the day of the annual school budget vote, May 19, and to instead hold classes on March 13, which had been scheduled as a professional development day with no classes in session.
“We realize there may be some students and families that have already made plans for March 13, and we apologize for any inconvenience this change creates,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “However, we felt this shift best alleviates concerns about student and staff safety while the polls are open and is the least disruptive to students and their families, staff and voters.”
Prior to voting on the change at its Jan. 13 meeting, the board had been discussing how to ease concerns about students being in Fayetteville Elementary School during the annual school budget vote and board of education candidate election, which takes place in the school’s cafeteria. Polls are typically open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The state dictates the date (the third Tuesday in May) and location (a school building) for the annual school budget vote, but districts are allowed to set the polling hours within set parameters.
In December, the board had discussed elementary schools only holding a half-day of classes on the vote date, May 19, and opening polls at noon, when students would be gone for the day.
“We felt that shortening the polling times would have the unintended result of discouraging some residents from exercising their right to vote,” Tice said. “As we looked at our options, we felt moving the professional development day to May 19 and holding classes March 13 provided the best option for the district to fulfill its responsibility of educating our students while making the polls as accessible as possible for voters.”
Currently, the district schedules its autumn staff development day on general election day, which is on the first Tuesday in November. Moving the spring staff development day to the budget vote day replicates that practice, Tice said.
In recent years, the district has enhanced security during the annual budget vote by increasing police presence at the school and modifying how voters enter the polling area. The district has also lobbied the state to change the existing law so that districts can hold their votes at a location other than a school building.
“Student and staff safety is our top priority, and we would not be doing our due diligence if we had not explored various options before making a decision,” Tice said. “We hope that anyone experiencing a conflict with March 13 understands why we made the change. We were hopeful that the law would have been changed so we could move the vote out of Fayetteville Elementary, but since that is not an option, we have come up with what we feel is the next best option.”