The head of the Sioux City Education Association is concerned that public schools being used as polling places on November 3rd could potentially create unsafe conditions for both students and teachers on election day.
Local union president, Kris Snavely, objected at the school board meeting Monday that 27 of the 28 voting precincts in Sioux City are in public schools. “People who are voting are people that have the right to carry guns and they can come into our schools then. People who are voting are people who are sex offenders, and they have the right to come into our schools to vote. And we have kids in there and how do we protect kids? There’s the potential for unsafe things happening,” according to Snavely. “People who refuse to wear masks during COVID — and we have a mask requirement — are eligible to vote.”
Snavely says she is also concerned that the custodial staff would not have time to sanitize areas of the buildings where the voting took place as the polls are open until 9 p.m. She asked the board to not hold classes on November 3rd. “Instead, perhaps having a workday for staff and using that as a snow makeup day. The staff is there and the students would potentially have enough hours to make up a snow day that might come up. Perhaps you have no school that day,” Snavely says.
Sioux City Superintendent Paul Gausman says by law the district cannot turn any votes away. He says they have put in processes that allow for the segregation of the precinct from the school building whenever possible and have put in for more cleaning. Gausman says they are required by law to host the voting when requested by the county auditor.
District operations manager Brian Fahrendholz says the school buildings will remain gun-free on Election Day — but the schools mask mandates can’t be enforced on the voters. He says the county auditor will help address that issue. “Every entrance and along the pathways he’s going to have masks and he’s going to encourage as strongly as he can for anyone coming in to vote to wear a mask. Again, we can’t turn them away because they are not wearing a mask or refuse to wear a mask. All of his workers will be wearing a mask,” Fahrendholz says.
Sioux City police will also patrol school parking lots on Election Day to help with security. This will be the first year since 2004 that most local voting precincts in Sioux City will be in public school buildings. A quick survey by Radio Iowa found polling places in most other counties are not in schools.
(By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)