SAUGUS — With a few taps of a gavel, $1 million was allocated to replace guard rails across town at a mock Town Meeting Thursday at Saugus Town Hall.
But not before the high schoolers, acting as Town Meeting members, suggested replacing the rails with shrubs.
“Maybe we’ll be the first and we’re going to get in a record book or a history book,” said Kian McCabe, 17.
Her fellow Town Meeting member, Catherine Schena, thought it would be a nice way to beautify the community.
But not all were on board.
“I think I speak for everyone when I say replacing guard rails with shrubs is completely idiotic,” said Jack DeSimone, 17, who acted as manager.
The meeting started with a lesson in Robert’s Rules of Order. Though they had fun with the subject matter, the students found themselves going through the motions, and understanding, the purest form of democracy.
“I learned the roles of each person in the Town Hall,” said DeSimone. “I like that you can debate with one another and go back and forth.”
Special Education and Psychology Teacher Peter Bursaw, who planned the field trip, said that’s all he could ask for.
The students have talked about political topics in their history classes, but getting a hands-on experience is invaluable, he said.
“Reading about it in books or watching it on TV is not the same,” said Bursaw. “They’re realizing that they’re making, probably, more important decisions than they’re making in Washington. These things affect their everyday lives.”
Student Government Day is a longstanding tradition in Saugus. Saugus High School Principal Michael Hashem remembers participating when he was a student. Hashem, who became principal in 2013, graduated Saugus High in 1985.
“Student Government Day is important — they can study it but you don’t really know how it works until you’re sitting at the table,” he said.
Prior to the Town Meeting, the group of about 30 students broke into smaller groups to act as the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee. They focused on real issues plaguing the town.
The mock meetings had value for the elected officials, too, said Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of the School Committee.
“I think it’s always important to listen to what the kids have to say,” said Meredith, who recalled a student who suggested cell phones be banned at the high school altogether and admitted he’s often distracted by his own.
“I hope to see some of these faces in these chairs, making a difference in their community, someday down the road,” said Meredith.