Cary News

Montessori students ‘take over’ Morrisville government

Nine-year-old Mason Pulido may be too young to drive or vote, but he stepped into the role of Morrisville Mayor on Tuesday.

Well, sort of.

About 20 students played the role of Morrisville town staffers and council members when a faux glitch knocked out the computers at Morrisville Town Hall. Students were required to tackle issues such as rezoning a 50-acre farm from agriculture to residential and reviewing a proposal to install lemonade fountains in a town park.

The exercise – designed to teach civic government – was led by real-life Morrisville Councilman Mark Stohlman on Tuesday morning. Stohlman said he was impressed by the students’ ability to compromise and deliberate on the issues.

“It’s amazing how on target they were,” Stohlman told the real council at a meeting later that night. “They asked the questions we would ask.”

The students, ages 9 to 12, took the assignment seriously.

Several students spoke against the rezoning proposal that would bulldoze McDonald’s farm to make room for houses. Students were asked to consider neighbors’ complaints that the rezoning would bring more traffic and congestion. They also weighed a plan to turn the land into a town park, but that idea came with a $10,000 price tag for walking trails and a playground.

“I think building houses is a bad idea,” said Bryson Scales, who was representing the fire department. “We already have trouble getting to the houses because of the traffic. Building more houses would mean we wouldn’t be able to get to their houses in time.”

The three-member council voted 0 to 3 against the rezoning.

Debate then turned sticky over a sweet idea to convert four Morrisville Community Park fountains from water to lemonade. Students were dismayed that soccer programs for children 10 to 14 could be sacrificed to cover the $5,000 cost.

“There’s a lot of boys and girls who love soccer,” said Georgia Varani. “If you take it away they would be disappointed.”

In addition to cost, students worried the sugar in lemonade might make people sick.

“It might raise taxes. People might get angry,” said Lily Conley “Lemonade is nice, but it’s just not healthy.”

Jake Langenderfer proposed a compromise.

“Of the four water fountains, two could have lemonade,” Jake said. “People could choose if they want water or lemonade.”

For students taking on the role of town officials, it was an eye-opening experience.

“It was tough decisions to make,” said Mason, who acted as mayor. “You can’t just say anything. You have to think about it. You have to let your people help you out.”

Daiwik Bommireddipally said, “I think it was a good experience to see how the meetings worked and how things are discussed.”

Teacher Teri Gentri said the school tries to teach students to actively participate in every aspect of life.

“It’s a good way for them to see how you can work right within your own town,” she said. “ I think they definitely learned you need to pay attention to the people who represent you, and you need to speak up.”