'Don't turn schools into super-spreader situations by hosting election polling', says Mansfield Woodhouse headteacher
A Mansfield Woodhouse headteacher has said he is concerned that council plans to close schools for elections could create a virus ‘super-spreader’ event.
Nadeem Shah, of St Edmund's C of E Primary and Nursery School, said: “If schools are open to all pupils in May, then Mansfield District Council’s decision to close some to host polling stations on May 6, could be described as an irresponsible, even reckless, disregard for the safety of pupils and school staff.
“Schools have restricted visitor policies. The general public accessing our site is an unnecessary risk and could end up becoming a ‘super-spreading’ event for our school and community.
“We’d have to close to do an ‘industrial level’ deep clean and we’ve already lost months of in-school learning.
"It would be deeply unfair to our children to have to close for an election which could be housed in a community building.
“Two days of school closure, means vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers would not be able to attend. That could affect hospital care, as key workers would have to look after their children on those days.
“Since the pandemic schools have had to adapt quickly and dynamically. Mansfield District Council should also adapt. It may mean finding unconventional solutions. Would it not be safer for voting to be moved to postal ballots, or other remote systems? A polling station could be sited in St Edmund’s Church, Mansfield Woodhouse library, empty buildings or a marquee.”
But Hayley Barsby, Returning Officer at Mansfield District Council, said: “A school is only used as a last resort when there’s no other suitable venue. We work with headteachers to try to find a way for schools to remain open. This has been the case at St Edmund’s Primary, as only access to the nursery building is required to facilitate the election.
“Polling stations have to be located within the polling district and schools are set out in the legislation as a suitable venue. If a suitable venue, such as a school, is identified within the polling district, then other venues outside the polling district cannot be used.
“Elections during a pandemic are a concern to us all but the Government has announced that it intends to proceed with elections on May 6.”