In an effort to allow students and teachers to vote and volunteer at polling stations more easily, the administration decided to give Election Day on Nov. 3 off to upper school students for the first time in school history.
After middle school math teacher Gregg Ross suggested the idea, it was brought to the Upper School Faculty Academic Committee which unanimously approved it.
“It seems like if we’re encouraging people to be civic-minded, we ought to facilitate that as much as possible,” Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said. “I love the idea of young people being engaged in this process, however they choose to do it.”
This decision was easily implemented due to the addition of Flex Days into this year’s schedule. Flex Days, created as an opportunity for rest, professional development or community time, were already integrated into the schedule earlier in the year. The school decided to move the previously scheduled Nov. 11 Flex Day to Election Day .
Political Discussion Club leader urges students to volunteer
Following the school’s announcement, made via email Sept. 9, students have found ways to engage in the election by planning to vote in person or to volunteer at polls.
“By becoming a poll worker, you can play your part in making sure every person has an equal opportunity to vote,” Political Discussion Club leader Josie Jun ’22 said
Students are able to volunteer as poll workers through organizations such as Poll Hero or by signing up on the Los Angeles county website. In a year when the risk of COVID-19 will keep many older poll workers at home, youth volunteers will play a key role in protecting the right to vote, according to USA Today. In 2016, more than half of the country’s poll workers were at least 60 years old, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission reported, an age demographic with a heightened vulnerability to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Student shares his opinion on civic participation
“The only way to be confident in government is to participate in it,” James Johnson-Brown ’21 said. “We are pretty wired in, mostly because we have to be. News is also dominated by politics, classes are political, family is political. We have no choice but to engage.”
Johnson-Brown said he felt satisfied when reading the school’s decision to cancel school on Election Day to allow for more political participation.
“Reading that announcement was the proudest I’ve ever been to be a Harvard-Westlake student,” Johnson-Brown said.