Following pushback from New Hyde Park residents, the Sept. 13 primary election voting will no longer be held at New Hyde Park Memorial High School, district officials said on Wednesday.
Several parents and Sewanhaka board of education Trustee James Reddan, who serves the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park community, objected to the Nassau County Board of Elections placing polling at the high school following a five-year long community effort to get voting out of the elementary district’s schools.
Polling at schools compromises students’ safety by undermining security protocol, community members said during a recent Sewanhaka Board of Education Meeting.
Next Thursday’s primary voting will now be held at Michael J. Tully Park, Sewanhaka Superintendent Ralph Ferrie said in an interview Wednesday.
“We are very appreciative of the collaboration we had,” Ferrie said.
In an interview last Friday, Bonnie Garone, counselor to the Democratic commissioner, said the board of elections was surprised by the public pushback and said the original decision to take the voting out of the elementary schools had nothing to do with community concern.
“In fact, I have a letter on my desk now from a civic association that’s angry we moved out of the elementary schools,” Garone said in an interview. “It’s a complicated issue.”
Polling was removed from the Manor Oaks School and Hillside Grade School this year.
Garone said the board makes changes “all the time” with the goal of consolidating poll sites and making them as “convenient as possible to the voter.”
“We thought that the use of the New Hyde Park high school as a poll site was acceptable. Let me say, it never appeals to every single person, but we thought it was acceptable … and had no idea that there was resistance in the community,” Garone said.
Garone had said the board would continue to look into options to resolve the issue.
During the last Sewanahaka board of education meeting, Reddan called the board of elections decision a “slap in the face” to the community.
Reddan said in an interview Wednesday that he is happy the primary has been moved out of the high school.
“Whoever wants to take credit for it, whoever wants to say that they didn’t do it because of us, we don’t care,” Reddan said. “We just want the results.”
Voting will remain at New Hyde Park Memorial High School as of now for Election Day, but that poses less of a security threat since school is closed that day for students, Reddan said.
Voting will also remain at the other high schools in the Sewanhaka district that have routinely had voting in the past without raising public concern, Ferrie said.
“This was an issue just in New Hyde Park,” Ferrie said.
Moving forward, Reddan and Ferrie both support legislation proposed by state Sen. Elaine Phillips that would allow schools to opt out of being polling sites.
Phillips, in a news release issued Tuesday discussing her bill, said ““every parent wants to know that their children are safe at school.”
Phillips said that while “state and school leaders have been working hard to enhance security,” on election days “schools are required to throw open their doors and let everyone in, even if experts feel that they are not equipped to handle the extra security needs that go along with being designated as a polling site.”
New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Superintendent Jennifer Morrison and Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler also support Phillips bill, according to Phillips’ release.
“We need to let schools decide if opening their doors puts children at additional risk, and if more suitable sites should be found for Election Day voting,” Phillips said.