Denver’s second largest charter school network declared Election Day a statutory holiday.
STRIVE Prep will give students and staff at its 11 schools a day off on November 3. Even though Colorado has a postal mail system that allows voters to vote early, STRIVE Prep CEO Chris Gibbons said the network believed declaring Election Day a vacation would be symbolically meaningful, as well as practices for students and staff involved in the effort to obtain the vote.
âIt sounds like a special time in our country where the focus on voting and civic engagement is important,â he said, referring to how the COVID-19 pandemic and a national calculation on racism have highlighted societal inequalities. Students from STRIVE Prep RISE held a march against racism and police violence in June.
Because STRIVE Prep is a charter network, it can set its own schedule. The schools reside in the Denver Public School District, which has 92,000 students, and which still has schools on election day.
But Denver School Board member Tay Anderson pitched the idea of ââthe vacation on social networks. He said he also discussed it with the district superintendent and general counsel.
Anderson said he had heard mixed comments: some supported the idea, while others feared parents would scramble to find child care. Schools in the district are expected to be open to in-person learning by then, and about two-thirds of students have chosen this option.
Some educators were also concerned about the academic impact of another holiday in a year where students have already wasted learning time due to the pandemic.
For these reasons, the district will not declare Election Day a holiday, Anderson said. But he said district officials will encourage teachers and staff to use the three student-free work days already on the calendar in October to fill out their mail ballots. The district will also pledge not to schedule staff meetings or extracurricular activities on election day, he said.
However, Anderson said he would push to declare Election Day a public holiday in the coming years.
âI just wanted to make it easier for people to go to the polls,â he said.