RICHMOND -- In a city where millions of dollars are at work trying to convince people to reject a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, Richmond High School students have spent the past month making up their own minds.

Hours before Election Day, they will use their rhetorical repertoires to persuade the swing voters, if there are any of those left.

Richmond High School's Health Academy will host a public student debate on Measure N in the school's Little Theater at 7 p.m. Monday, just hours before the polls open on the controversial ballot measure.

"We're excited about this," said Mike Mannix, an English teacher who runs the school's debate program. "We've done statewide issues in the past, but we've never had something so relevant, so local. The people from all over the world are watching this issue in Richmond, and the students are really blown away by that."

Richmond's Measure N would levy a penny-per-ounce tax on businesses that sell sugar-sweetened beverages, which proponents say will curb consumption and generate revenue for youth programs. An American Beverage Association-backed group has spent more than $2.5 million to oppose the measure, which, if passed, could be the first of its kind nationwide.

The debate will be "Oxford style," meaning attendees will vote yes or no before and after the debate, with the side that moves more votes their way declared the winner. About 60 students, virtually all seniors on their way to colleges next year, are involved in research and preparation. The debate on stage will be six-on-six.

The public is encouraged to attend and watch the students make their cases.

"It's open to all," Mannix said. "The issues being discussed are crucial to the Richmond community and its future."

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com and follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.

If you go
What: Measure N student debate
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Richmond High School's Little Theater, 1250 23rd St.
Why: The sugar-sweetened beverage tax has put the city in the national spotlight for public health policy
Who: 60 Richmond High School seniors and teachers are involved
How much: Event is free and open to the public