Photo source: Queens Reporting Class
Charlotte, NC – The first Tuesday of every November marks Election Day across the United States and here in Mecklenburg County. But today, things were different in Charlotte. In a rare move caused by pandemic chaos and recent Census reporting delays, the City of Charlotte postponed the traditional Election Day polling for much of Mecklenburg County.
That meant instead of the usual hustle of voters and campaigners seen near the Queen Campus on Election Day, it was a quiet, crisp Tuesday morning as the Queens Cross Country team traversed the empty parking lot at Myers Park Traditional Elementary School, where polling usually takes place.
Not only was the election postponed, but city leaders also recently declared today the second of two consecutive Charlotte Mecklenburg School teacher workdays, a move that added to uncertainty for voters and school families alike.
As she stood outside the main school building this morning with a bagel and cup of pumpkin-spiced latte, Dana Spurgeon, a math teacher who has taught at MPTS for seven years, described the usual voting day as “chaotic” at the little elementary school that borders Queens University. As she looked quizzically around the empty parking lot, she said that she was not aware that the usual voting had been canceled.
“Usually on voting day it’s super chaotic,’’ she said. With “ people coming in and out of the school all day and making it hard to work,’’ Spurgeon said.
On March 8, 2022, citizens will be able to vote in primaries for Mayor, City Council, U.S House of Representatives, and U.S Senate.
Out of 195 precincts in Mecklenburg County, only 28 were open today and only in towns surrounding Charlotte like Mint Hill, Stalling, Cornelius, Matthews, Pineville, Davidson, and Huntersville. These suburban towns are able to vote for their Mayor and town council since they do not run in Charlotte-controlled districts.
In an unusual move for local public schools, CMS now has had two teacher back-to-back workdays, on Nov. 1 and 2. The original teacher workday for Nov. 2 was scheduled in the original academic year calendar for CMS. But the school board voted last week to also make Monday, Nov. 1, a teacher workday to allow beleaguered teachers more time for lesson planning and county-mandated professional development.
Many teachers have found students are behind in both academic and social skills, and the statewide testing has put added pressure on schools, teachers, and students to make up the gap. Teachers are also having to adjust to a new grading policy and protocols.
On teacher work days this year, most schools have given teachers and staff the option to work from home as many are completing online training programs, Spurgeon said.
Teachers have felt extra pressure in recent weeks as they have juggled staff shortages, extra trainings, new grading policies, and performance testing that is not going so well, according to Spurgeon. She said although her school, Myers Park Elementary, is not understaffed right now, much of the district is.
While many students welcomed the extra day off, some working parents were stretched thin as these teacher workdays meant a four-day weekend for the over 148,000 students in 176 schools in the district.
One reason for the workday, said Spurgeon, is for new state-mandated training on literacy. CMS teachers are required to complete 20-plus hours of a new literacy review called “Letters Training.’’ Lower literacy scores have driven the push for extra help for students.
“This training is specific to Covid and for teachers to get extra training on literacy,” said Spurgeon.
While the official reason for the 2021 election postponement is Census reporting delays, the root cause appears to be the pandemic and overall complication of work-from-home coordination and census data collection. As a result, city officials voted in June to push primaries forward to March of 2022.
“The city of Charlotte election pushed Census data that was supposed to be given to us in order to redraw our district maps was not given to us on time due to covid,” said John Cortez, an elections specialist with the Mecklenburg Board of Elections. He said calls from confused voters had been coming in all morning.
Efforts to reach city council members to comment on the issue were not successful. None of the members answered phone calls to their offices.