June 20, 2018

Voting returns to armory

Photo by Jason Starr
The Vermont National Guard Armory on Williston Road will host elections in Williston beginning with the August statewide primaries.

Citing safety concerns, school administrators halt use of Williston Central

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Elections in Williston will return to the Vermont National Guard Armory building next to town hall starting with the statewide primaries in August.

Elections, including November general elections and Town Meeting Day voting in March, have been held at Williston Central School for the past three years.

Champlain Valley School District administrators notified Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett in April that the school would no longer be available. Williston Lead Principal Greg Marino said opening the school to voters during the school day goes against the district’s heightened focus on school safety. Typically, doors are locked during the school day.

Several parents registered concerns about security during elections after school shootings in other states earlier this year, Marino said.

“It is impossible to assure parents that we can monitor everyone who enters the building (during an election),” he said. “Though the district realizes that the likelihood of an event occurring at WCS is extremely low, our parents expect us to do every single thing we can to ensure their children’s safety.

“We appreciated having voting here and having the town come into the school and have the school be part of the process,” he added. “We’re sorry to see that go. At the same time, we’re working very hard as a district and a community to make the schools as safe as they can possibly be.”

According to Beckett, Williston elections have historically been held at Williston Central School. But about 10 years ago, because of logistics with parking and the use of the school gymnasium, elections moved into the armory. Then, three years ago, the school again began hosting elections.

“It’s unfortunate we can’t vote at the school,” Beckett said. “It’s a great opportunity for the public at large to see the school and what they pay for in taxes … I think that’s going to be missed.”

The annual town meeting held the Monday evening before Town Meeting Day ballot voting will continue to be held at the school auditorium, she said.

After she received notification of the school district’s decision, Beckett contacted Vermont National Guard headquarters about returning elections to the armory. She said the Guard agreed to waive a fee for use of the building. Currently, this year’s August primaries, the November general election and next March’s Town Meeting Day voting are booked at the armory.

The building houses the Vermont Guard’s 86th Troop Command. Voting will take place on the drill hall floor.

“The staff there goes out of their way to work with us,” Beckett said. “It’s a regular work day for them, so it’s a big disruption.”

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