AUBURN — The four city schools that serve as polling sites will remain open on Election Day, the School Committee decided Wednesday night.

It wasn’t a quick vote. Several committee members leaned toward closing all four schools in the interest of safety.

“Just because nothing has happened before,” said Tammy Neilson of Ward 4, “doesn’t mean nothing is going to happen.”

Bonnie Hayes, from Ward 2, was particularly strong in her opinion that the schools — Sherwood Heights, Washburn, Fairview and Auburn Middle — should be closed on Election Day. In the end, though, her motion was voted down and the committee voted instead to keep the schools open upon assurances from police that they will provide extra security at all polling sites.

The final vote was 6-1, with Hayes remaining opposed, although it appeared to be a cautious vote. Sherwood Heights in particular was an area of concern. At that school, members of the public will have access to hallways to get to the voting booths.

The idea didn’t sit well with School Committee member Brent Bilodeau, who pointed out that on typical school days, members of the public aren’t generally allowed anywhere near school hallways.

“On Election Day, you can walk into a school and come and go as you please,” Bilodeau said. “Nothing stops you from heading right to the classrooms.”

Superintendent Katy Grondin begged to differ, however. She’s been in touch with Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen about polling places on Election Day, she said. The chief assured her that police can provide officers at each school to keep children and staff safe.

Just the same, parents of students who attend the four schools will be told that they may keep their children home on Election Day if they choose to do so and the absence will be forgiven.

“There’s a lot of tension,” Grondin said of the coming election. “And it’s not just just supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that make it so.

“There are referendum questions that are also controversial,” she said.

Committee member James Pross, just before voting to keep the schools open, pointed out that there has never been an incident of violence at the polling places in the past.

School departments in other cities, including Portland and Lewiston, have opted to close at least some of their schools on Election Day.

Earlier this month, Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster announced that Longley and Montello elementary schools would be closed as residents vote there.


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