Superintendent addresses Crescent Park School polling place worries
The safety of students at the Crescent Park Elementary School, and the responsibility of the town, came up for discussion last week at a Bethel budget workshop.
Selectmen and Budget Committee members were discussing appropriating money for improvements to the Cole Block building (town office) when the subject arose. The idea has been floated to change the town’s election polling place from CPS to the town office, if upgrades could be made.
Budget Committee member Bob Everett wondered if the town had any liability under the current voting arrangement.
“We have people in the town that are on the sex offender registry,” he said. “Every year they’re up there voting. Does that affect the town? This is going to affect us sooner or later. We’re going to get sued or something’s going to happen. I didn’t realize that until somebody brought it to my attention at the last election.”
Another committee member, Levi Brown, is also teaching principal/health coordinator at CPS. “ I also had probably a dozen parents address that same issue,” he said.
Selectboard Chair Stan Howe raised another issue. He said he was told some people coming to vote may have guns in their vehicles.
“We have several things that are not good,” he said.
Replied Town Manager Jim Doar, “I can’t speak to people having guns. They’re not supposed to, in the parking lot.”
As for the possible presence of sex offenders, he said, “You’re voting and you can’t disenfranchise people, and that’s our polling place.”
Doar said the town could move the polls to the Fire Station, “but that would require moving trucks out and keeping the bays open,” he said.
Parking could also be an issue.
On Friday SAD 44 Supt. Dave Murphy was asked about the concerns.
Regarding sex offenders on school property, he said, “There is no specific policy on that. We go by state law.”
He said he talked to Sheriff Wayne Gallant, who, he said, has checked with the District Attorney’s Office.
“He said voting isn’t a problem for people as long as they don’t seek out direct or indirect contact with kids,” Murphy said.
In past years,he said, either the Bethel Police Department had placed an officer on duty at CPS on election days or a steel gate in the hallway that separates the classroom wings from the gym, where voting takes place, has been closed.
But in recent years there has been no police presence and the gate has not been used, he said.
However, said Murphy, “I talked to [Brown] about having the Sheriff’s Office available in the future. That’s something we’ll be looking at.”
Murphy added, “I think there are only two registered sex offenders right now in town. I talked to Jim Doar and they can figure out if those folks even vote.”
Doar said Monday only one is registered to vote, and the offense did not involve elementary-age children.
As for the possible presence of guns in vehicles, Murphy said. “That’s never been called to my attention. I’m not aware of that.”
He said federal law (the Gun Free School Zone Act of 1990) prohibits guns in school zones, as does district policy.
In the larger picture of school security, several years ago the district discussed the possibility of hiring police or school resource officers for its schools, but did not pursue it.