As the city begins a school year unlike any other, with a mix of remote and in-person classes and enhanced social-distancing measures, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza wants to block a plan by the New York City Board of Elections to use any school as an early-voting site.

In an interview with Gothamist/WNYC Carranza, the former social studies teacher who describes himself as a proponent of early voting, said schools should be off limits this election because of COVID-19.

“The thought of, in a pandemic, taking space that could be used as a classroom or is being used as a classroom, and now has to be repurposed, just negates all the hard work that principals and staff members have done,” said Carranza.

Election officials are seeking access to 20 schools and 9 Learning Bridges childcare program sites for the voting period that begins October 24th and runs through November 1st.

Carranza also raised concerns about members of the general public entering school buildings without being required to follow public health protocols in place for staff and students such as a temperature check.

“We're going to have random members of the public also coming in. We have no idea whether they've been tested or even exposed,” said Carranza of possible early-voting sites. If there were to be a positive case at school, he said, “It's going to make contact tracing even harder because now you have people that aren't part of the school that are coming in and out.”

Carranza said using schools for early voting would also put added pressure on staff that’s required to clean and sanitize the schools each day given the hours of early voting, which run until 8 p.m. on two of the nine days.

While the BOENYC has scored some big wins enlisting the help of two of the city’s major sports arenas as venues for voting - Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center - the agency has struggled to find enough locations for early voting. Out of the 191 early-voting sites across New York State, there is only one school being used, according to data from the New York State Board of Elections.

The BOENYC said its been working with the city for months on a plan for early voting sites.

“This was not a pop quiz. The Chancellor failed to do his homework and needs to follow up with his staff,” BOENYC spokesperson spokesperson Valerie Vazquez said. She added, “These sites were designated in March and used in June. Since then, the Board has been in weekly if not daily contact with the DOE.”

Of the 20 schools and nine childcare sites the city DOE says the BOENYC wants to use, the break out includes six schools and three Learning Bridge sites in the Bronx; five schools and five Learning Bridge sites in Brooklyn; seven schools and one Learning Bridge site in Manhattan; and two schools on Staten Island. Just like last fall and this past primary season, no schools in Queens were selected for early voting.

Schools and Learning Bridge sites the city says the BOE wants to use

Schools and Learning Bridge sites the city says the BOE wants to use

Schools and Learning Bridge sites the city says the BOE wants to use

The city began pushing back against the use of schools last December, after the first time the early voting was used in New York. City Hall gave the city Board a list of 53 sites, which did not include schools, for early voting. Only about a third of those new sites agreed to be early voting sites.

Last week, Carranza sent a letter to the city Board of Elections commissioners urging them not to use public schools this fall, while also criticizing the Board’s “behind closed doors” process.

Despite its reluctance, the city has little recourse to refuse the BOENYC’s request to use these schools for polls sites. Under state election law, public schools are the only locations that can not opt out if Boards of Elections ask to use them.

That’s something State Senator Liz Krueger has been trying to change. She sponsored legislation last year after she was approached by parents in her district complaining about the burden of losing school space to early voting, before the pandemic. She sponsored legislation to prohibit the use of schools for early voting sites, which passed her chamber, but did not move in the Assembly.

“There is no law that stops Boards of Elections from using schools,” said Krueger who added, “there is common sense.”

Krueger said she doesn't think the BOENYC, or any city leaders, worked hard enough to find alternative locations for early voting. She’s a vocal proponent of using cultural institutions that receive tax benefits and grant funding for poll sites, instead of schools.

Asked what the city planned to do if the BOENYC goes ahead with its plan to use public schools for early voting, Carranza suggested Governor Cuomo might be able to intervene.

“We had to submit our safety plans to the state. They were approved by the state. The governor wants to know what we're doing. Could he help us in this regard to say schools are just off limits during this pandemic?” said Carranza.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.