After weeks of informative, yet sometimes contentious, community school meetings, voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to decide the fate of Lauderdale County School District’s proposed $12.5 million school bond issue.
The special election is only for voters residing in the county school district and will determine how encompassing the new Lauderdale County Career and Technical Education Center will be when it is constructed in the old Peavey building on Highway 11/80.
The proposed CTE Center will consolidate many of the district’s career and technical education training to one building, making the programs available to all students within the district. Currently, high school students are only able to participate in the programs offered at their campus or those available through Meridian’s Ross Collins Career and Technical Education Center.
If approved by voters, the new center will greatly expand the district’s offerings of CTE programs, including adding programs in advanced manufacturing, agricultural power and machinery, aviation technology, educator preparation, culinary arts, construction engineering technology, energy, law and public safety with a emphasis on fire fighting and business, marketing and economics. The center also will be home to a health clinic for senior health science students to participate in work-based learning and will increase apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities for students in partnership with community businesses.
According to estimates given by Superintendent Dr. John-Mark Cain during the final community school meeting Thursday night at West Lauderdale Elementary School, turning the old Peavey building, which has been completely gutted, into the center is projected to cost $12-13 million. Installing furniture, equipment and high-tech machinery is estimated to cost $4-5 million, with another $1-2 million expected to be spent on outside paving, installing fencing and renovating existing vocational classes that will be moved from the high school campuses to the center so they can be used for regular classrooms again. At previous meetings, district officials have said the project will stay within a $19 million budget.
Due to numerous parents expressing concern about the safety of their children being on campus while voting is going on, the school district is granting an extra parent note excused absence for the semester with parents being allowed to use it for voting day. Typically, a student is allowed to use a parent note for five missed days a semester in order for the absences to be excused. The parent note must be submitted through the regular process, according to a letter released by the school district.
All Lauderdale County residents are eligible to vote in the election except for a small number who live in the Meridian separate school district, which includes an area mainly down Valley Road and around Old Eighth Street Road, according to a handout from the Lauderdale County Circuit Clerk’s office.
No one in the city can vote on the bond issue except for those registered voters who live in annexed areas, mostly around the Eagle Pointe, Briarwood and east of the Bonita area.
One way to check and see if you can vote is by looking in the bottom boxes on your voter registration card. Voters who have the numbers 1 through 5 under the “SCHD” heading on their voter registration card are eligible to vote. If “SEP” is listed under the SCHD heading, then you may not be eligible to vote.
Voting on the bond issue will take place on Oct. 3 at four locations: Clarkdale High School Gym, Northeast Middle School, Southeast Middle School and West Lauderdale Elementary School. Voters can cast ballots between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., but remember that traffic to these campuses will be busy during morning drop off and afternoon pick up. Voters will need to present a photo ID as with any election.