Margot Schneider ’22
The presidential election on November 3rd will be a turning point for the United States. The stigma around this election is augmented by increasingly polarized and partisan American politics. Fear of election manipulation and intimidation may discourage some eligible voters from casting ballots this year. On top of all this, the COVID-19 pandemic infinitely complicates the election process. While mail-in ballots have become more popular than ever before, some people will still choose to physically go to the polls to cast their ballots. Friends Select should allow community members to participate in the election without the added stress of a missed school day.
Many students and faculty have already made plans to involve themselves in the election this year. Voting-eligible teachers and students may encounter abnormally long lines and time consuming safety protocols. Additionally, members of the community have made volunteering arrangements. This includes being a poll worker, canvassing, or being a phone bank operator. However, people who choose to involve themselves in the election should not be concerned or penalized by an end of quarter absence. Those who choose to be politically involved should not be required to focus on whatever assignments, studying, or lessons they may miss while contributing to our democracy. They should be given the privilege to direct their complete focus on voting or helping others to do so.
Cancelling school on November 3rd is simply the best solution to these issues. Excused absences, light work days, and no test days are not as effective. While excused absences give students an extra day to complete the assigned work, they do not account for the missed time they spent participating in another activity. If school proceeds as normal on Election Day, volunteers will have double the amount of work due on a subsequent day, making it difficult for them to stay on top of their tasks. In addition, the no test day strategy may be even more detrimental to student’s abilities to remain current with the class. If tests were prohibited on this day, teachers could move on with material unfamiliar to the absent students. They would then have to individually learn missed lessons, perhaps becoming even more difficult than rescheduling a test.
This election is more impactful than whatever may take place in our school community on November 3rd. Many students and faculty already plan to be absent on Election Day, so it is only practical for the administration to make an absence a reasonable, fair option for all high school community members. A regular day of school is not worth prohibiting active participation in our democracy, especially on a day marking a turning point for the nation. School, while a crucial part of our lives as students, is not what you should be paying attention to on November 3rd.
Peter Ryan ’21
The moment is long overdue to designate Election Day as a federal holiday in the United States. In recent years, single parents, essential workers, and individuals working multiple jobs have struggled to designate time to vote on Election Day, resulting in lower voter turnout and less representative results. Granting all eligible voters sufficient time to cast their ballot is a necessary step in ameliorating American democracy.
This year, a team of students from various affinity groups and clubs have drafted an open letter requesting that the Friends Select School administration cancel Upper School classes on Tuesday, November 3rd in order to give all eligible community members ample time to vote. This is a brilliant idea to increase voter turnout and comfort in Philadelphia, but its implementation this year will create a number of major problems at Friends Select. The timing of Election Day in relation to the Upper School academic calendar makes giving the day off impractical for both students and teachers. Instead, the school should offer excused absences to eligible voters, poll workers, and other volunteers.
The Upper School’s first academic quarter ends on Friday, November 7th, which teachers will use as a report-writing day. Consequently, the final week of the quarter is only a four-day school week. Canceling classes on one of that week’s school days would leave half of all hybrid students with only one day of in-person school in the last week of the academic quarter. Additionally, half of all classes would meet only once during this three day week. Especially for new students and freshmen, suddenly shortening the quarter by cutting a critical day could disrupt the natural progression of classes and cause rushed work, confusion, and stress.
For students and teachers planning to vote or work at polling stations on Election Day, missing a day of school is a worthy sacrifice to fight for democracy. Personally, I am planning to work at a Philadelphia polling location on November 3rd regardless of whether or not the school offers an excused absence. Community members have intentionally missed class periods to fight for necessary change in the past: many students have participated in numerous walkouts to end gun violence and climate change in recent years. This election is yet another event worth a missed day of school.
Voting-eligible Friends Select students and teachers also have the opportunity to vote long before Election Day: in Philadelphia, voters can already cast their ballots at City Hall or a number of other polling stations, as well as through mail. If students are currently choosing between voting and going to school, they can cast their vote in their spare time now to avoid the trouble in November.
While the movement to cancel school on Election Day is well-intentioned and raises important points about the value of voting, declaring an unplanned day off this close to the end of the quarter is highly inconvenient and disruptive to both students and teachers. Absences should be excused for all community members, but students and teachers should have the option to attend school as usual on Election Day this year.