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Why more Texas districts have canceled classes on Election Day

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Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT News

If you've waited to vote until Election Day, you might find that the nearest polling location is at a school. This is nothing new. But something that has changed is the number of schools closing on Election Day due to safety concerns.

Madalyn Mendoza, who explored this for Axios, shared more with Texas Standard. Listen to the full interview in the player above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: What are some of the big districts canceling classes on Nov. 8 and why?

Madalyn Mendoza: The districts in Dallas, Fort Worth, Richardson are all closing. And it’s not unique to these [districts], it’s not even unique to Texas. This is something that we’re seeing happen across the U.S. Even here, where I’m based in San Antonio, there are a few districts closing as well as in Austin.

Some of these districts are explicitly saying safety concerns, whether it be the rise in threats to poll workers or just like a volatile election process or, you know, I think there is a lot of anxieties tied to shootings because just earlier this year we had the Uvalde school shooting. So it’s a mix of situations.

But while I was researching it, I found that even, I think it was somewhere in Europe, they’ve closed schools on Election Day for years. So it’s nothing new. But I remember, here in San Antonio, going to school on Election Day and seeing adults walking in and out of the hallways. So I know there was a time when it didn’t happen, but it could be confusing for parents, I’m sure, to hear their kids say that they don’t have school on Election Day.

So it’s kind of like a patchwork situation of some schools closing, some schools not because the outlier in this is Houston ISD, which is the largest school district in Texas. They are not having off that day. So it’s not everybody.

» TEXAS ELECTION DAY 2022: Check back Tuesday night for live election results for statewide races

Can you talk about the presence of election equipment and workers and why that might be of particular concern when it comes to the risk of violence?

Yeah. So it all has to do with Texas Code saying that schools have to be available to be a polling site, if needed. So having poll workers there, I know that we even have like now there’s poll watchers and the FBI launched a special security force to make sure that everybody is safe. So if you have all of that working in schools and, you know, then you think about, too, we still have risks of [the] pandemic. And you think about all that being in a school, I can understand the need for district leaders to make this decision to call a class off. Even like the logistics of, you know, increased traffic as picking up kids and dropping them off and people coming in for voting and exiting. I think all of those go hand in hand for that decision.

Some might hear about schools closing on Election Day and call it another barrier to vote. Some parents might not have other child care options and that could keep them away on Election Day. Did that come up at all in your reporting?

Yeah, I’ve seen some reactions to that of people saying it could be a barrier for folks who don’t have child care or didn’t realize this was a decision last minute. And that is a warranted concern, too. Yeah, that’s definitely something that I’ve seen just in other forms I’ve seen in different states, people saying the same thing. So definitely part of the conversation.

» TEXAS ELECTION DAY 2022: Here’s what to watch for as voters head to the polls

We should note that you are allowed to bring kids with you to the polls.

Yeah.

Anything else that you think folks should know about what you’re seeing in this trend?

No, just that, you know, early voting is important if you’re able to. Early voting kind of gets you out of all of those situations. I know that there is a kind of excitement to vote on Election Day, but early voting is always there. And like you said, you are able to bring your kids to the polls. I used to go with my mom when I was little. I think it heightened that awareness of civic engagement at a young age, so that’s always an option too.

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Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.