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Proposal to cancel April special elections could hurt schools, district officials say

Coronavirus has already canceled weeks of school. Now school officials worry that a proposal to cancel the April special election could cost teachers their jobs.

BELFAIR, Wash. — Citing concerns over the health of elections workers, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman earlier this week called on Gov. Jay Inslee to cancel all special elections scheduled in April.

But school district administrators worry that if voters won't have the chance to pass levies and bonds this spring, it could hurt schools.

North Mason School District Superintendent Dana Rosenbach said losing the April levy would cause her to lay off teachers this fall.

“It would result in probably close to $4 million in cuts, most of which would be layoffs,” Rosenbach said.

RELATED: Washington closes all schools and bans crowds during coronavirus outbreak

Many school districts rely on voter-approved levies and bonds to pay for some teachers and staff, and to fund building and technology improvements.

Washington conducts its elections by mail and hasn’t required voters to go to polling locations in years.

But Wyman said processing and counting ballots requires people to work together, in close contact — and against the social distancing recommendations made by health experts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“Elections officials rely on a lot of people to conduct an election,” said Wyman, “And the age of most of these employees is 60-years-old or over, the very folks we’re most worried about protecting during the pandemic.”

RELATED: What is social distancing?

The special elections could be conducted in August or November, said Wyman.

A office spokesperson said 36 elections statewide were scheduled for April 28, for levies and bonds for school districts, cities and fire departments. At least a dozen of those government groups have canceled their own elections.

Gov. Inslee has not responded to Wyman’s request to cancel all of the April elections.

RELATED: Real-time updates: Latest news on the Washington coronavirus outbreak

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