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Symmes Valley enrollment shows decline

AID TOWNSHIP — The economic downturn has created an enrollment downturn for Symmes Valley schools; meanwhile the board is pondering how to accommodate the board of elections’ decision to use the school buildings as polling places on election day in November.

Superintendent Tom Ben told the board of education Monday night that the district has lost 38 students since last fall, 21 at the elementary and 17 at the high school. He said he suspects Symmes Valley is not alone in this and that other districts are finding the same scenario now that classes are back in session.

He said after the meeting the exodus of these students is the most he has seen and thinks the enrollment drop is directly tied to the economy as families leave this area to find work elsewhere.

“We’re keeping an eye on it,” he said.

Another matter discussed at Monday’s meeting is whether to close school on election day or make special provisions to keep students and voters separated.

In August, the Lawrence County Board of Elections sent the school board a letter, advising it wanted to use the district’s buildings as polling places in November because the schools are handicapped accessible.

But at its August meeting, the board decided to notify the elections officials that the request to use the buildings had come so late it could not be met.

At that time the board of education provided the board of elections with a list of area churches and other public buildings that could be used as polling places.

“It’s not that we don’t want to cooperate, but this was such a late notice,” Ben said. He pointed out that the district’s calendar was approved in April and the plan was to have class on election day.

But the elections officials have said they are a right to use the schools for elections and will do so. At Monday’s meeting, the board discussed but made no decision to whether to adjust the calendar and cancel classes on election day or find some way to keep kids in school that day but maintain security and traffic flow.

“My concern is, there might be individuals who might have some kind of sexual (offender) background and they shouldn’t be around kids,” board member Brian Pancake explained.

“They can’t vote, can they?” fellow member Kim Turner said.

“No, but they can bring their wife or whatever,” Pancake said.

“We’re the only district to deny them, I think that kind of makes us look bad,” Turner said. Fellow member Wayne Taylor said the district has security in place, he was concerned about traffic and parking logistics.

The board asked Ben to find out what other districts do to accommodate the election, whether they cancel class or stay in session.