Is school more important than an election? That's the issue in one local school district. Some parents in Pender County are upset the county is delaying the start of school on election day. Since many parents vote in the morning before work, the school board says there would be traffic and safety concerns if school was in session during early morning hours. But parents say education should be the priority. The recent growth of Pender County, especially in Hampstead, has created a need for additional polling locations. There are 20 this year - three of which are schools. In order to accommodate voters, the Pender County School Board decided to delay the opening of all schools by two hours. And many parents we spoke with aren't happy. "I think it's wrong. a school's a school. why take education away from children just to have a poll, an election? that's wrong," says grandparent Laura Gilchrist. Pender County Board of Elections Director Dennis Boyles expects a strong turnout on election day, due to several hot-button issues on Pender County's ballot, like Hampstead's Incorporation and a proposed land transfer tax. A big turnout could mean congestion at the three schools, especially early in the morning. That's one reason schools will open two hours later. "Hopefully, by the time the parents get there with the students, the people heading to work have already been in and voted and on their way to work," said Boyles. But there's another reason for the delayed opening -- safety. School administrators don't want students in the building while adults enter and leave without checking in at the office first. "The normal procedure when someone is on campus is that they have to come in through the front doors and sign in. that procedure can't happen on election day," said Joyce Keith with Pender County Schools. In order to avoid confusion, the School Board decided the two-hour delay should apply to all schools, not just the polling locations. The school board says next year, election day will be a day off for students and a teacher work day.
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