If Mount Airy fifth-graders had their way, there would be snack vending machines for students in the schools, an indoor pool in Mount Airy and no restrictions on seating during lunch in elementary school cafeterias.
Students reached those conclusions yesterday at a mock town council meeting at Mount Airy Elementary School.
The nine-member council consisted of fifth-graders from Mount Airy and Twin Ridge elementary schools. Both schools are within the Mount Airy town limits; Mount Airy Elementary is in Carroll County and Twin Ridge is in Frederick County.
Fifth-grade teachers Patti Cannaday of Mount Airy and Jean Eagleson of Twin Ridge organized the event.
"We're trying to get the two schools together since they're both in the same town, and this is an opportunity for them to learn how municipal government works," Ms. Cannaday said.
The topics on the council's agenda were selected in advance by fifth-graders from both schools.
"They're very representative of the kind of things these kids are concerned about," Ms. Eagleson said.
The fifth grades from both schools assembled for the town meeting in the cafeteria at Mount Airy Elementary.
Before the meeting, Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson gave the student council members some tips on parliamentary procedure.
Ask the members of the audience to come to the microphone and state their comments, Mr. Johnson told "Madame Mayor" Christine Tracy.
"The key is don't get frustrated," Mr. Johnson told the students. "Just think things through and everything will be fine."
With that bit of advice, Mayor Johnson relinquished his mayoral duties to Christine, who kicked off the meeting by leading the fifth-graders in the Pledge of Allegiance.
One of the first topics up for public discussion was whether public school students should wear uniforms.
All the students who commented on the issue strongly opposed wearing school uniforms.
"It's uncomfortable and people don't like to get told what to wear," was a typical remark. "This is a public school and we should be free to wear whatever we want to wear."
The council agreed.
"If we're going to wear uniforms, they might as well make us a private school," said councilwoman Larissa Spencer.
In a 10-0 vote, the council rejected uniforms for public schools.
Another question open for debate was whether schools should have candy and soft drink vending machines for students.
With very little discussion, council members voted 10-0 in favor of vending machines.
The most controversial item on the council's agenda was the question of whether schools should have longer days so students and teachers can have longer summer vacations.
Some students said a longer day would interfere with after-school activities and would be too tiring.
"We'd have to get up early and some of us are late sleepers," said councilman Matt Thorburg, to much applause.
Student Amanda Fleming supported the longer day "to spend more time with our parents in the summer." Her remark was greeted with scattered boos and groans from the audience.
In the only decision that wasn't unanimous, the council voted 6-4 against a longer school day.
After the mock town meeting, Mayor Johnson urged the students to become involved in their communities.
"Wherever you reside and there is a need, please step forward and fill that void," Mr. Johnson said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be as an elected official; it can be as a volunteer."