Published On: Wed, Jul 25th, 2018

Public Schools Throughout Florida to Remain Open During Upcoming Primary Election Despite Safety Concerns

By Robert S Weinroth

With the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fresh in people’s minds, alarm bells should be going off at the School Boards in all 67 of Florida’s counties (particularly Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties) as the upcoming Primary and Special Election in Boca Raton are a little over a month away on August 28th.

Even before the murder of seventeen students in Parkland, Election Supervisors in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties had been lobbying to make August 28th either a teachers’ workday or closing the schools entirely.

Schools in all three counties will be closed for the General Election on Tuesday November 6th but will be open on primary day.

One of the lessons learned from the events of February 14th was our school campuses must be hardened, making more difficult for individuals bent on causing a disruption to the learning of our students, to gain access.

However, over 300 schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties will be polling places during the upcoming primary. That will mean hundreds of people will be coming and going at each school, supporting candidates with their signs and literature and casting their ballots.

It is inconceivable that the safety of our children is not being deemed an overriding consideration when weighed against the loss of academic time. Clearly, if a tropical storm was barreling down on South Florida, the safety of students and staff would be deemed more important than the loss of class time.

In addition to the obvious security concerns with having a large number of voters on campus along with the students, the process of drop-off and pickup by parents (already a stressful operation given the number of vehicles involved) will be impacted by the voters driving to the schools,  trying to vote before going to work.

So, barring a last minute change of heart, while voters participate in Democratic and Republican primaries for US Senate, Florida Governor and many other offices as well as the nonpartisan elections to pick school board members, judges and in Boca Raton a mayor and council member, students will be on campus, notwithstanding the elevated level of concerns being raised by parents.

In the end, the insistence on keeping the schools open will likely place extra pressures on the county sheriffs and police departments to beef up security during the period of the election to protect the election process while ensuring the students remain safe.

The ultimate solution may require the attention of our state legislative delegation. State Representative Matt Willhite (D-Wellington), has indicated, if re-elected, he will likely introduce a bill requiring schools throughout the state to be closed for primaries, municipal and general elections. However, absent support from Republicans, who hold a majority of the seats in both chambers of the legislature, there is little likelihood the proposal will gain the necessary traction to be enacted.

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. As a newly elected County Commissioner, Weinroth has been appointed Vice-Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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