Teens fueling ballot drive

School bond sparks students’ interest in voting process

For a number of Sequim teens, their first vote may help decided the future of their schools.

A growing interest by young voters in the Sequim School District’s efforts to pass a multi-phase school construction bond issue has some Sequim High students talking to their classmates about changes they’d like to see at their own school and beyond.

“In government class, we’d talked about how the bond barely missed being passed; that was frustrating to me,” SHS senior Emily Webb said.

In November, a $49.3 million bond proposal fell just 0.45 percentage points short of a 60 percent supermajority needed for approval.

The plan would have helped build a new elementary school, add science classrooms at Sequim High School, add classrooms at Greywolf Elementary School and complete several other projects district officials say are critical to the health of the district.

“A lot of my peers hadn’t voted and that would have made a difference,” Webb said.

This February, Sequim school advocates are seeking support for a $54 million bond. Ballots went to voters in the Sequim School District on Jan. 20, with a Feb. 9 election date.

The bond has received public support from the City of Sequim, Clallam County commissioners and Olympic Medical Center’s board.

Sequim High School government teachers have used the school construction bond issue to engage students in the voting process, guiding students through the online voter registration online process.

For some students, like Webb, getting registered was just one part of the process. She and other SHS Leadership class students began posting pictures and videos of what they consider outdated facilities they’d like to see upgraded in the bond proposal, including the school’s science classrooms and the district kitchen.

“One day I just put on my Snapchat story (about a) leaky roof in the office — it was kind of a funny thing,” Webb said. “Emma (Eekhoff, a classmate) posted in on Facebook and it got tons of publicity … for Sequim. I thought, ‘Hey, this would be a great way for students to get involved.’”

Soon, Webb and others were seeking out other parts of the district the bond seeks to address and posting more photos and videos.

“No one knew what the base kitchen was — I didn’t even knew it existed,” Webb said.

“Having visuals and from a student … kids that actually experience this every day, it’s a different perspective,” she said.

Eekhoff added, “We would make fun how we get so used to the conditions we live in and joke around about it, like we took a picture of a puddle (and wrote), ‘Wow, Sequim has a swimming pool now.’”

The photos and videos started spreading out to classmates and then their parents, Webb and Eekhoff said.

“We can help in such a big way,” Eekhoff said. “Parents aren’t really in the high school. They don’t see the interior. We didn’t realize the power we had with social media.”

Student support has branched out past social media circles as well. Eekhoff and Megan O’Mera, SHS senior class president, advocated for the Sequim City Council’s support at city meeting in early January.

Like most of her classmates who are registered to vote, Webb is a senior and likely won’t use any of the updated facilities if the bond gains approval. But Webb does have a younger sister, a sixth-grader, who would.

“This is my last year to make a difference (but) even if I didn’t have younger siblings, there are younger kids that I know; (this is) for them, too,” Webb said.

“School means a lot to me and this is letting our community members know what’s going on,” Eekhoff said.