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The Lasso in the News-Press: Traveling for Sports & Middle Schoolers in High School

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The Falls Church News-Press has partnered with George Mason High School’s award-winning newspaper, The Lasso, to bring its readers some of the top articles appearing in the student-run digital paper. This regular feature will appear monthly in the News-Press during the school year. The Lasso can be found online at www.fcpps.org/lasso.

Editorial: Weeks for Wins?

By Daniel Donovan

Not only does George Mason have a reputation for being one of the best public schools (academically) in the United States, the athletic department has established itself as one of the most successful programs in Virginia High School League (VHSL). But at what cost?

George Mason has been a long and proud member of the Bull Run District, one of nine schools including Madison County, Strasburg, Clarke County, Rappahhannock County, Manassas Park, Central-Woodstock, Warren County, and William Monroe. The District is highly competitive, and almost always has one school represented at the state tournament in any given sport.

Districts and the newly classified conference system, are at its core, organized based on the student population of each school. Theoretically, the more students a school has, the more likely it is to put together a better team of players. Whereas smaller schools have less students to choose from in their respective pool of players, and it’s therefore less likely that group of players will be as good as the team from the bigger school.

For this reason, the 314 member schools of the VHSL are divided up into 6 different classes. Schools in 6A have the most students, and schools in 1A have the least. Ideally this makes for the most competitive and fair match- ups between high schools.

George Mason has a little more than 750 students at the school, placing us in the 2A classification. But Mason is located in the highly populated area of Northern Virginia and almost every school in the area is 4A, 5A, or 6A with twice, sometimes three times as many students as Mason. Because of this, our sports teams must travel to other schools that have similar student populations for sports games.

Out of the eight other schools in the Bull Run District, only one is less than an hour drive from George Mason, Manassas Park High School (45 minutes). The other seven schools range from one and a half to two and a half hours away from Falls Church. Most schools in Northern Virginia have never traveled more than one hour to an away game.

So this got me thinking… exactly how many hours have I spent on a school bus to away games?

I am a senior this year and I’ve been a three-sport athlete every year I’ve spent here at Mason (8th grade through 12th grade). At the conclusion of this 2014 fall sports season, I finished my 13th season as a Mason athlete. By the end of this year I will have played a total of 15 seasons in a Mason uniform for four different teams (golf, football, basketball, and soccer). This is the maximum amount of seasons someone can play at Mason, but each grade has multiple athletes who play three sports and it is not uncommon.

So I went back through the Mason Athletics website and tallied every single away game I have played at my time here. I then used Google Maps to estimate the approximate time it takes to get to each of these games, doubled it (trip home), and then added them all together.

So far (with two seasons left), I have spent approximately 286 hours on a school bus to away games. In other words, 12 days of my life.

Things you can do in 286 hours:

• Drive across the country 10 times

• Listen to all seven Harry Potter books on tape two and a half times

• Fly to Australia 14 times

• 41 days of school

• Watch both seasons of “House of Cards” 18 times

• Wait in the school lunch line once (just kidding, but you get the point)

After the next two seasons, my final total will land somewhere around 330 hours. That’s 13.75 days, so essentially two weeks I have spent on a bus to away games.

This poses a question, would it be better to play schools with so many more students than Mason within close proximity, even if it means our sports teams would most likely experience significantly less success?

Aside from the time issue, there are financial concerns for the city and the school district. That much time on the bus is roughly over 15,000 miles traveled. At a normal school bus’s 15 mpg and current gas prices, that’s at least $3,500 just on the bus rides I’ve been on. Not to mention environmental concerns. I would calculate something for that, but let’s just say I’ve spent more time on Route 66 to these games than in science/math class (again, kidding).

Although there are many concerns with the travel system, we can’t take away from the positives, yes they are there. Spending this much time with teammates is undoubtedly good for team camaraderie and many athletes learn to love the bus rides.

With the city and school system growing faster than ever, it’s possible that by the next time VHSL classifies Mason will be in the same groups as the larger schools in the area. This unique characteristic of sports at Mason might be going extinct. So grab your pillow and all the homework you won’t be able to get done, spend all the money you have left on your Sheetz card, and enjoy these bus rides while you can.

 


 

From MEH to GM: 7th Grade at Mason

By Eva Ellis

MEH has found itself with a growing number of advanced students in need of more challenge courses and curriculum. As a result of this, these students have found themselves pursuing their education in the unfamiliar halls of Mason. (Photo courtesy: Falls Church City School System)
MEH has found itself with a growing number of advanced students in need of more challenge courses and curriculum. As a result of this, these students have found themselves pursuing their education in the unfamiliar halls of Mason. (Photo courtesy: Falls Church City School System)

Due to the 8th grade splitting from the high school and going back down to the middle school, a new issue has risen. Some students were in need of more difficult courses which are offered at George Mason, but not at Mary Ellen Henderson. At the start of the last school year, the 8th graders and some 7th graders began to take classes (not offered to them at MEH) at Mason as a solution to this problem.

The decision to allow middle schoolers at the high school was a result of parent requests. As Principal Tyrone Byrd said, “They saw how their students were excelling, and they needed a new challenge.”

Though one might think parents would harbor some concerns over sending their children to a higher school, the reality is vastly different. Having not met any major issues or worries, the process so far has been smooth sailing. Though there were some logistical errors, administrators were able to use their knowledge from their previous experience with 8th grade students taking Mandarin to easily overcome them.

The only remaining concern is that of future predicaments these students are likely to find themselves in.

Referring to this issue, Byrd said, “I’m worried about when they get up here.” As these students are already so many grades ahead, it’s probable that they will find themselves with a lack of classes to take as they attend Mason. However, administration already has a solution in mind.

“We’ll probably have them take classes, at NOVA, so they can get high school and college credit at the same time.” said Byrd.

Currently, these students have the opportunity to take Algebra II / Trigonometry, French III, and Mandarin Chinese. Their views on not only their classes, but this situation itself, remain positive, reflecting the optimism of administration.

“I was nervous,” said 7th grade student Ethan Krost, who is taking French III. But, as the school year began, his worries soon vanished. “It’s been easier than I thought,” Krost said.
Eigth grade student Chaney Keck is also taking French III and shares similar views to Krost. He said his high school experience “[has] been fine. [He] didn’t expect it to be bad [and found] it wasn’t.”

As these students continue in their educational careers, we can only hope that their futures continue to grow in potential. As they progress through high school, it’s undoubtable that their path of accelerated classes will lead them to great things.

 


These articles plus more from The Lasso available at www.fcpps.org/lasso.