Though seniors at Central Heights and West Franklin high schools will be gone from classrooms by Election Day, that might not keep them from wanting to vote on the bond issues facing their school districts.
Separate bond elections — both set for June 4 — put funding for repairs and additions to the schools in the Central Heights and West Franklin districts before patrons. The schools’ seniors won’t be around to see the outcome and changes if either of the bonds pass, but they still wanted to have a voice in the election, Jim White, Central Heights superintendent, said.
To aid such students, Janet Paddock, Franklin County clerk, went to Central Heights Friday to help students who are 18, or will turn 18 before June 4, register to vote, White said. Paddock planned to do the same during lunch Tuesday at West Franklin High School to help students register to vote if they want to participate in the West Franklin bond election.
“Anyone who has a passport or certified birth certificate can register,” Paddock said. “Even if they’re 17 years old now, but will be 18 before June 4, they can still register now.”
Central Heights officials heard about other school districts that had gone through similar voter registration efforts, White said, and decided to do the same civic-minded exercise locally.
“Having it at school would be a good focus for the women and men who are turning 18 and can sign up and vote in their first election,” he said.
Most students and seniors only know a little about the bond issue and what it will mean for Central Heights’ schools if it passes, White said, but the seniors still want to leave behind a better district for coming students.
“I think it’s important because it brings new things to the school,” Samantha Stegner, a senior at Central Heights, said of the district’s bond issue. “There’s things that have been around since they actually built this school, so it will be an improvement.”
The $1.75-million bond issue proposed for Central Heights would fund several projects for the district. Improvements would include the construction, equipment and furnishing of a new music room, locker room, kitchen, improved seating in the gymnasium and auditorium, as well as replacing the original building’s roof, which was built in 1967, White said previously.
The bond issue and its potential passage won’t affect the seniors directly, Stegner said, but it matters to her because family members still will be attending.
“I’ll still be around here and obviously I’ll come back,” she said. “My brother will be here, and it would just help the school.”
Stegner herself won’t be able to vote on the bond issue — she won’t turn 18 until June 5, the day after the election. If she could vote, she said, she’d vote in favor of the bond.
“Because I know it would help the school out,” Stegner said.
West Franklin High School followed suit with the voter registration event plans when officials received word Central Heights was having Paddock help students register, Dotson Bradbury, West Franklin superintendent, said.
“We had a patron who called the district and said, ‘The county clerk is going out to Central Heights to sign up students there to register to vote,’” Bradbury said. “We thought since they’re doing it at Central Heights, why don’t we have them do that at West Franklin?”
The $14.3-million bond issue proposed for West Franklin would consolidate the district into a centralized campus in Pomona. The bond offer would budget for classroom additions, renovations of existing buildings, a new gym, weight room, vocational/agricultural education, a wood shop building, an eight-lane competition track and parking lot improvements, according to West Franklin’s website. The improvements also would connect the campus buildings.
Registering students to vote isn’t just about the bond election, he said.
“Statistically, in elections of any kind, younger people don’t always vote,” Bradbury said. “One of the goals is not just to have them vote on the bond election, but to get them to get in the habit and be a good citizen and voting in every election.”
Not all students in the West Franklin school district have shown an interest in the proposed changes if the bond issue passes, Bradbury said, but students and parents alike have been given ample information on the bond issue.
“The board authorized an information flier to go home to every residence in the county,” he said. “Hopefully parents are talking with their 18-year-olds and sharing the flier with them.”
Paddock said mail-in ballots will leave her office May 15, giving residents of both districts enough time to return them by mail or by hand. Ballots must be in the possession of the county clerk’s office June 4 to be counted. They cannot be post-marked June 4.
“Our goal is to encourage all people to vote and start voting as early as they’re able to do so,” Bradbury said. “We think it’s just part of being a good citizen.”