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Getting Behind Student Government

Students lobby Board of Ed to keep student government as an academic course.

The movement to preserve student government as an academic course in the Three Village school district is picking up momentum once again, with students and parents speaking up over the last two board meetings in support of keeping it as is.

"It would be a huge disappointment if I couldn’t take this class during the school day," Gelinas ninth grader Sabrina Feretti, president of the school's student government, told the school board on Tuesday. "These classes strive to make all students feel a connection to their school ... The impact of this class is too great to ignore."

School administrators say less than one full-time-equivalent position would be eliminated by converting the program to an after-school club starting in the 2012-13 school year.

While no specific estimate has been released regarding how much money could be saved in the 2012-2013 budget by turning student government into a co-curricular activity, last year the administration estimated that would have saved $64,000. The program was eventually preserved.

However, speakers have said relegating student government to a club rather than a class will force students to choose between participating in student government and their other after-school commitments, such as sports, religion, other clubs, and family responsibilities. Others say fewer school and community events and fundraisers will be planned if student government becomes merely a club.

"I think you’d be limiting their opportunities to participate if it were not during school hours. ... I would like to see it continue as a period during the day," said resident Marla Gorman, adding that her own daughter might not be able to participate because of obligations after school.

In nearby Smithtown East and Smithtown West high schools, a similar program called "student leadership" is also an academic class during the day. Port Jefferson High School has a student council club that meets after school and occasionally during school lunch periods.

Three Village school board president John Diviney said it's still early in the school budget process to tell what will be eliminated for sure.

"There are choices that may have to be made depending on what budget level we have to go to," he said. "Those final choices won’t be made until later on. These are all different types of alternatives being presented."

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