Tuesday, April 26—Today is Presidential Primary Day in Connecticut, which means Democratic and Republican voters in Wilton will head to one of three different polling place, just like they always do when there is an election: either Wilton High School, Cider Mill School or Middlebrook School. But today’s vote is a little more complicated—unlike voting on Election Day in November when students are not in school, today’s Primary Day will find voters at the school-based polling precincts while classes are in session.
That scheduling issue has presented some new concerns for school and town officials to consider. They say they’ve had to plan for additional congestion in school parking lots, especially during student drop-off and pick-up times, which could inconvenience voters as well as staff members at each building. What’s more, they’ve had to anticipate any safety issues involved with having unlocked entrances and members of the public going into the schools while students are present.
All three of Wilton’s polling places will be open from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. on Primary Day. [Find out where your polling place is, if you’re unsure, on Wilton’s registrars of voters’ webpage.] The different town entities are working together to try and make things as smooth as possible, says registrar of voters Carol Young-Kleinfeld.
“What’s been consuming a lot of our attention for the last couple days is trying to work out plans with the Wilton Police Department, the superintendent of schools, and school principals for voter parking and access to the polling places because school is in session. They’ve been wonderful ….and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to balance the safety and convenience of our voters with that of our students, staff, and parents,” she says.
Security and safety of the students is something school officials are taking seriously today, according to superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith.
“There will be additional police on site at Cider Mill. The Clune Center is segregated from the High School, and the gym behind Middlebrook is segregated so we’ll have campus supervisors for security there, and the school resources officers will be available. Cider Mill is really the only place where non-school folks will be coming into the building during the school day. So we have two extra police officers to go into that school during the day. We’ve also assigned a campus supervisor from the high school to Cider Mill for the day,” Smith explains.
He also says he doesn’t anticipate that there will be any problems, and says they’ve prepared.
“I feel good about what our plan is. I feel like we’ll be able to make it work. The registrars have indicated that this is an unusual primary, so they’re expecting more traffic than they’ve had in the past. If things do crop up that are unexpected, we’ll adjust as we need to. And we’ll look for four years down the road.”
Because it’s an active school day, school bus lanes will be busy at arrival and dismissal times, and anyone entering needs to bring identification when they come to vote. School administrators are asking families to encourage students to take the bus today to help limit congestion when possible.
Smith says precautions have been put into place so that he doesn’t anticipate any parking issues for voters. “Hopefully voters will understand that at start times we’ll be moving in a lot of buses, so there will be those few minutes in the morning at drop off and again in the afternoon at dismissal, where things will be busier than at any other point in the day.”
He noted that there will be staff in the parking lots and that buildings supervisor John Murphy has organized custodians at each school to help make sure lots stay clear and that voters know where they’re going.
At the High School, primary voting will be held in the Zellner Gallery at the Clune Center. The entire Clune Center parking lot will be reserved for voters and the loop will be closed to student drop off and pick up. Students and parents who absolutely must drop off on the north side of the building will be routed through the gate on the right side of the entrance and should be able to unload in the north parking lot.
In a note to parents, WHS principal Robert O’Donnell said that the Clune Center lot and loop will still be closed during the beginning of the Jazz concert on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.. “Concert attendees will not be able to enter through the Zellner Gallery (the integrity of the voting area must be respected) and will need to enter through the other entrances. Concert attendees are asked to budget extra time to enter the building and be seated at the beginning of the concert.”
There are similar plans at the other two schools, according to superintendent Smith. “We’re clearing the parking lot at Cider Mill so all the staff will park down at the tennis courts. So there will be plenty of parking there for voters. Likewise, behind Middlebrook, where voting is in the gym, all parking with direct access to the gym will be blocked off with access for the voters.”