SEASIDE — “Vote ‘Yes’ for Seaside schools!”
The voices rang out as students, families and bond supporters joined in a pep rally march Sunday from the Seaside Civic and Convention Center to U.S. Highway 101, back to Broadway and onto the Prom. Seaside High School sophomore Mason Crawford ran through the crowd waving the school’s flag as shouts and cheers erupted from the gathering, which included more than 200 participants of all ages. The rally culminated at the Turnaround before students headed back to the convention center.
The sunny November morning belied the dire message of students, faculty, friends and supporters of the Seaside School District’s $99.7 million 30-year bond to move three schools out of the tsunami hazard zone.
The measure to relocate Gearhart Elementary School, Broadway Middle School and Seaside High School to a new campus on high ground in the east hills adjacent to Seaside Heights Elementary School goes before voters Tuesday.
Seaside High School’s Lucy Bodner said students turned out to spread awareness for the vote to get the schools out of the tsunami-inundation zone. “There are so many kids that are in danger all the time,” Bodner said.
Crawford agreed. Along with support for the bond, he called for a districtwide emergency plan.
“I don’t think tsunami awareness is enough,” Crawford said. “Other schools have action plans for other natural disasters, like earthquakes or hurricanes, but nobody talks about the tsunami. Every day we could easily be wiped out.”
Associated Student Body co-President Emma Dutcher said the rally’s goal was to get the word out about the bond. “We’re hoping that by walking downtown, it will get a lot of businesses aware and get the community together,” Dutcher said.
This year’s campaign was going “really well,” she said.
“Four years ago, when I was a freshman, it wasn’t so popular,” Dutcher said. “This year I’m seeing a lot of ‘Vote Yes for Local Schools’ on lawns signs. It looks like it will go in our favor this year.”
Students from throughout the North Coast joined the rally in a show of solidarity.
Payton Wolf, Associated Student Body president of Vernonia High School, said students outside of the Seaside School District were responding to the plight of their neighbors.
“Recently we had to go through the same thing in passing a bond for our own schools when we got flooded twice,” Wolf said. “We just had to gather together with our town and do pretty much the same thing. We feel we can give back to them.”
Student involvement makes a “100 percent” difference, she added. “Older people can sit here and try to pound something into you, but when it comes from the students, it makes a lot more of an impact.”
High-schooler Dakota Willard was also part of the Vernonia contingent. “I was in fourth grade when they decided they needed to move our school, so I got to go to fifth grade in the new school,” Willard said. “It was really nice. We should help them get a new school.”
“This is our best chance to get our schools out of the tsunami inundation zone and build these schools that have gone 15-20 years past their useful life,” Seaside School District board member Patrick Nofield said as the group walked double file along the sidewalk up First Avenue to Highway 101. “This is our future. We need to create environments for kids like this and future generations with opportunities to learn and give back to our communities.”
Gearhart City Councilor Sue Lorain, who is running unopposed for re-election, showed her support. “When I see the appalling condition of the schools, on a daily basis these kids need something better, something safe,” Lorain, a retired schoolteacher said. “Not to mention the endgame, which is a catastrophic event.”
Scanning the crowd, she added: “This reaffirms if you can get your kids involved, you can do just about anything.”
The whoops and cries of students rang out as the group looped west down Broadway toward the Prom. The chants reverberated to the Turnaround, inspiring a cacophony of car horns and cheers from onlookers.
Is the public listening?
“I think we’ll find out on Tuesday,” sophomore flag-bearer Crawford said. “They really need to. I don’t think they understand the gravity of the situation.”