Students debate merits of public and private high schools

Riley Johansen | Staff Writer

Students are educating themselves when it comes to their education.

As the end of the school year approaches and Mason Middle School’s eighth graders are deciding where those defining years will take place, some are choosing to migrate from Mason’s public school system to private schools.  

Eighth grade counselor Lindsey Sweat said that students often approach her with questions  about selecting the right educational path for high school.

“I hear tons about ‘is this the right path for me?’ and ‘should I take honors?’ I always tell the students, if you think it’s too much, it’s probably too much,” Sweat said. “I get stuff about the amount of honors and electives, some kids about deciding to go to private school or go to Mason, and even about extracurricular activities.”

Deciding where to go to school affects not just the student, but the family as well. Eighth grader Faye Cuasay will be attending Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA), a Christian private school, next year.

Studies show 79 percent of private high school students attend a school with a religiously based curriculum, and Cuasay said this factored into her parents’ decision about her education.

“My parents wanted me to go to a private school because they are very religious,” Cuasay said. “When they lived in the Philippines, they grew up in a very religious church and family, and they want the same type of background for me.”

Eighth grader Trevor Tiemeyer is attending Saint Xavier, a Jesuit school, starting freshman year. Tiemeyer said his brother impacted his decision on where and how he will spend his high school years.

“My brother is an alumni from (Saint Xavier) and he graduated last year, which is a reason I’d wanted to attend because he thought it was very beneficial,” Tiemeyer said. “But when my brother went to Saint X he cut off all relationships with his friends so he didn’t have any friends outside of Xavier and hockey. I have been trying to keep those relationships with my friends so I can still have some of my old friends before entering a new school year.”

While some decide to leave for private school, other students choose to stay on the public school path. Eighth grade sisters Katrina and Ainsley Scheidler are among the ones deciding to stay. Katrina Scheidler said that they feel Mason is the better choice for them, offering the same, if not better, opportunities.

“Education wise, I don’t really see much of a difference,” Katrina said. “I feel there is a better opportunity for education here, and this is where all my friends are. I feel like there are the same, or more opportunities at Mason than there is at a private school so why move?”

Ainsley Scheidler said she enjoys the size of Mason because of its ability to offer more ways to get involved in the school and create memories.

“If I want to have a choice to go to private school or Mason,  I will still choose Mason because of all the clubs that you can join and be a part of something so big and beyond you,” Ainsley said. “For example, here we have Cupcake Club, and there may only be one person at a private school wanting to do it versus here there is what, two thousand kids in seventh and eighth grade? So, here probably more people will be willing to do it, and so there’s more opportunity for people to be able to have that club and be a part of something related to their school.”

Sweat said exploring your options, learning more about the decision, and being comfortable with the choice is an important key to making the best choice that will define you in the most positive way.

“I think it is (important) to explore your options,” Sweat said. “Go shadow, if you can’t decide at first, go twice, go three times, talk to kids who were there. It’s an important decision, but worse comes to worse, you can always come back, you can always go to another school if it’s not working out. I think it’s really just about exploring your options. It’s whatever is the best fit for that child. I don’t think there is a clear cut say that a private or public school is better, and I think it really just depends on the child.”

Middle School teachers want to #make language arts great again

Shreya Vemula | Staff Writer

Donald Trump isn’t the only one who can make things great again.

#MakeLanguageArtsGreatAgain– it’s a hashtag meant to connect with students and invigorate interest in language arts with a humorous front. Started in November, seventh grade Language Arts teacher Joseph Carraher’s #MLAGA has given him a new way to connect with his students about the progress of Language Arts at the Mason Middle School.

Carraher said that it was the absence of endeavors and underwhelming scores for the Research Assessment that brought forth #MLAGA. He said he was frustrated with the lack of effort and hopes that #MLAGA will motivate students to turn in work of a higher quality.

“What was turned in I deemed to be less than adequate work,” Carraher said. “I had a 20 minute to 30 minute rant on what I believed needed to be done differently for you to live up to your potential in terms of Language Arts.”

Seventh grader Colin Campbell supports #MLAGA and said it became necessary due to the lack of effort on the students’ part, and that it will help students take more a genuine interest in Language Arts.

“It’s good that he’s promoting something to make Language Arts great again,” Campbell said. “Some kids don’t really like it and it makes kids want to do Language Arts.”

Carraher has started using news articles from CommonLit, Newsela, and the New York Times Upfront magazine to provide students with rigorous text and comprehension questions. He also added weekly editing worksheets to expand grammar and cognition skills. Seventh grade Language Arts teacher Eric Schatzle said that the weekly editing and readings have improved students’ grammar and ability to understand complex texts.

“He has seen some great things happen with that so I have started that process as well,” Schatzle said.

Carraher said that he tells students to pretend that their work will be seen by the entire world in order to motivate them to work hard.

“If you want to be viewed as sort of sloppy and don’t really put forth that much effort, then that’s how you’ll be perceived if you give me something like that,” Carraher said. “But if you want to be perceived as diligent, hardworking, and intrusively motivated, then you’re going to give me something worthy of that.”

Students use College Credit Plus to get a head start on high school

Lincoln Edsall | Staff Writer

As the Mason school district grows, harder work and more challenging class options are available to middle schoolers. This empowers students to expand their knowledge and creativity, but it may also cause them harm.

College Credit Plus is a program that enables students in high school, and now in middle school, to take college classes. This and similar programs that allow kids to take harder classes may add pressure to students at a young age and keep them from doing other things they enjoy.

Seventh grader Colin Van Neste said that lots of kids are putting school before being kids after seeing their parents’ accomplishments and degrees.

“What pressures (students to take harder classes) is their parents working at such big companies like P&G,” Van Neste said. “With their scientific and with their academic degrees, it’s really pressuring kids. Their parents are pressuring them to get better grades and take harder classes.”

High School freshmen Leon Chang partook in College Credit Plus as a middle schooler and agreed with Van Neste about feeling pressure from others.

“Of course I feel that pressure,” Chang said. “The herd mentality of Mason is a huge pressure. If you don’t take a certain path, it’s very easy to feel left out and behind.”

Chang also said that College Credit Plus can be worth it, but you must make sure it is class that is really worth taking in the long run.

“If you really want to take it, make sure it’s worth your time,” Chang said. “I took Chemistry because it is a prerequisite to AP Chemistry, a class I really want to take.”

Even if it is worth taking, the pressure is still there. Seventh grade language arts and social studies teacher Melissa Schubert said that at the middle school a lot of pressure is already on the students and adding college classes on top of that is unnecessary at this age.

“I’m not fond of (college credit plus),” Schubert said. “I feel that we’re already putting too much pressure on middle school kids, and I think a lot of kids aren’t ready for that pressure, aren’t ready for that level of academics. Their growing up too fast.”

Guidance counselor Lindsey Sweat said that is important for kids to have a balance between their school lives and their social lives.

“I think it’s important to have a balance because you should challenge yourself academically, I think that’s really important,” Sweat said. “But I think it’s also important for kids to develop themselves socially through extra curricular and spending time with family. I think it’s really important for kids to find a balance, but that can be really tough for them.”

Students shy away from drinking cloudy water

Desiree Downing | Staff Writer

Abby Walton | Staff Writer

Unclean pipes, dirty spouts, negative judgments.

Mason Middle School students are starting to believe that the water is unclean and unsanitary due to the white or cloudy color found in the water fountains.

Less and less students are drinking from water fountains, and one of the causes is the white, cloudy water. Seventh grader Nicholas Hawk believes the water has no point being there if no one will drink it.

“I feel like it’s unsanitary,” Hawk said. “Also I feel like nobody really wants to drink the water so it’s kind of a waste. It’s not bad to have, but it’s a waste to have water that nobody’s going to drink.”

Some students believe that the pipes are the problem. Eighth grader Tori Moore said that the cloudy water is due to the uncleanliness of the piping.

“I just think they need to clean out the pipes that leads the water to your mouth because there could be types of bacteria or funguses growing in the pipes leading people to possible illnesses,” Moore said. “I think that they clean them, but I don’t think that they use proper cleaning materials because the rust and mold around them (the water fountains) should not be there if they did.”

 Many people think that the white water residue is due to the water having extra minerals built up in the spout or in the pipes. Seventh grade math teacher Mika Snider said  that the white water is strange.

 “I find it (the white water) interesting and weird and I don’t drink out of the water fountain,” Sinder said. “There are probably just some minerals that are built up in it I’d imagine, though I’m not sure.”

 White water can occur when lots of tiny air bubbles make the water white. However, some students think the white water cannot be due to” too much air in the pipes”. Seventh grader Kylie Corcoran said that she thinks the water cannot be due to air bubbles and that the water fountains are not fully clean.

  “I don’t think that water can have air in the water because that makes no sense,” Corcoran said. “The lakes and oceans have air in them, but they aren’t white. I also think the janitors clean the water fountains just not the spout because it is a hard place to reach.”

  In order to ensure safe drinking water, Mason Middle School anually tests the water, and tests always come back safe for consumption. Head custodian Paul Cunningham said the water isn’t actually cloudy but that some minerals do end up in the pipes.

  “A lot of times there is an actuator in there and it’s really not cloudy water,” Cunningham said. “It’s all tiny little air bubbles. (The water is) very good quality, sometimes the city flushes the fire hydrants which causes the pipes to rattle around and then we get some sediment in there, but it goes away within a day.”

District set to begin massive renovation project

Andrea Forero | Staff Writer

Natasha Jha | Staff Writer

Meredith Turner | Staff Writer

Summer 2017 will kick off with a district remodel to help the growth of Mason students and to provide flexibility for the coming years.

The remodel will begin with the district’s elementary schools, followed by Mason Middle School. Students will be moved to other district buildings while the project is in progress. Mason City Schools (MCS) is working towards making the district a better place to learn by creating safe, technology-ready, innovative learning spaces and fixing structural components such as the AC system, pipe works, and roofing.

MCS took part in a district funding program which will help fund the project. The funds came from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, funded by state tobacco settlement funds. MCS is required to begin using the money from the funds before this coming spring or else they will lose the state funding.

Public Information Officer Tracey Carson said the building renovations have been part of a facility plan for many years and that the district is finally ready to move forward with the plan.

“This wasn’t new,” Carson said. “We had a facility plan since the early 2000s. We were part of this program all along, but in 2012, we started having community discussions about what was the best plan about moving forward. The middle school will be a total renovation. Things like our HVAC system, which is the heating and air conditioning, need [to be] completely replaced.”

Although renovations will require temporarily moving to another building, Principal Tonya McCall embraces the opportunity to make improvements that will benefit everyone.

“I would love to figure out how we can enlarge the cafeteria, so that we can have three lunches instead of four lunches,” McCall said. “We know that it’s going to be inconvenient for folks, for hopefully one year, as we transition to something new. Now that we’re moving and have an actual timeline of when (the renovation) is going to take place, we’re even more excited about the possibilities.”

Seventh grade science teacher Elizabeth Mills said she wants to include renewable features as part of the school rebuild.

“Of course it would be amazing to have some type of solar panels or some type of renewable energy,” Mills said. “I know it’s a huge undertaking and probably not going to happen in the next two years, but I do think it would be nice to start small, possibly using rain barrels in court yard areas then to water flower beds, garden spaces and our grass areas. As a science teacher I feel that using reusable resources and green ideas are crucial at this time and age.”

McCall said that these renovations will help the school do things that were impossible before, such as having spaces that allow students and teachers to collaborate and learn together.

“Where are spaces that we can have larger numbers of students at one time so we can have some more flexible groupings?” McCall said. “If two teachers want to work on something together, they can take their kids to this space to be able to do it. It’s not just about having a nice looking classroom; it’s what will that new space allow us to do that we can’t currently do.”

Carson said the renovation will ensure a better future for the Mason students.

“(We) are going to ensure that we have great spaces for our students to go to school in the next 50 years,” Carson said.

Personalized learning implemented in classrooms

Kiera Doran | Staff Writer 

Yamha Sami | Staff Writer

Independent. Self-paced. Teacher-free.

Personalized learning has become a learning trend at Mason Middle School that was implemented at the beginning of this school year, hoping to give students a more tailored learning experience. with personalized learning, the students would teach themselves, with the teacher being the advisor.

Eighth grader Erica Fennimore, is not a fan of this trend, as she prefers a teacher to instruct the class.

“I don’t like it because I need someone to give me instructions, or directions, or else I’ll get distracted,” Fennimore said. “I need a really strict guideline to follow, and some kind of authority.”

Personalized learning is used mostly in science classes, but eighth grader Maryam Shinwari said she would prefer it also being integrated into math.

“I think math would be good for personalized learning because some kids are naturally good at math and they might pick up things fast,” Shinwari said. “So they could just keep moving forward with personalized learning.”

Eighth grade science teacher Alison Sears said there should be a balance between personalized and traditional styles of learning.

“Both practices have benefits for student learning,” Sears said. “I believe some concepts need more teacher direction and others can be personalized to give the ownership of learning to the student.”

Seventh grader Kennedy Rader said personalized learning is having a positive outcome for both students and teachers.

“I think it’s a lot easier for the teachers because they don’t have to focus on the entire class and they can focus on the students who aren’t understanding what they’re learning,” Rader said. “Then they can let the students who do understand the topic move ahead, and do what they need to do.”

Class Selection Requirements Place Pressure on Students

Laalitya Acharya | Staff Editor

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Eighth grader Vivian Tran decides her classes for freshman year. Photo by Laalitya Acharya

The only bubble more intimidating than a Scantron is found on a course selector sheet.

The stress of planning next year has arrived at Mason Middle School and students are preparing to select their classes.

Eighth grader Ryan Baker said that the pressure that comes with choosing the right courses can cause anxiety.

“There is the pressure about not making a mistake in your scheduling to make it easier on the school,” Baker said. “You need to have backups prepared in case you don’t get your classes. Getting all the work for regular classes done (and deciding) if you think you’re capable to fulfill the required tasks for that class is also a really big cause of stress for me.”

Eighth grader Vivian Tran said the process can cause stress because it will impact her future.

“There is a lot to take in while planning for high school,” Tran said. “Your GPA and classes that you take in high school will affect your career path and what college you will be going to. High school is one of your most important times of your life because it will change your outcome in the future.”

Spanish teacher Heidi Morrissey said that the stress has only increased as the years go on.

“Over the past five years, (stress is) getting worse,” Morrissey said. “I think eighth graders have more school-related stress. I see anxiety in seventh graders as well, but it seems more related to academic, family and social pressures than high school scheduling stress.”

Spanish teacher Lauren Richardson said that it’s not always the scheduling process causing stress – sometimes it’s the classes themselves.

“I absolutely think that (honors and AP courses) add to the stress.” Richardson said. “My biggest question always is, what you want to do when you grow up? If you have a clear path for medicine or if you want to work in a lab, then I don’t at all question the reasoning behind that. (But) just because you don’t take one honors course that your friends are, it might be the best choice for you because you can be involved in a club they aren’t involved in.”

Morrissey said that it’s important for students to pace themselves and enjoy high school.

“I think that students need to think about what they are passionate about,” Morrissey said.  “If you don’t love human geography, or even know what that means, you shouldn’t take that class.  It’s great to have a few college credits when you enter college as a freshman, but there’s no reason to try and be a college student while still in high school.  I love the idea of realistic rigor, but I don’t think many of our students or their parents buy into it. We’re seeing so much anxiety at the high school because students believe they must take every single demanding course that’s offered.”

Seventh grader Allyson Bishop said that student competition forces students to raise their expectations, and in turn, their stress levels.

“I think AP and Honors classes should really start at a later age,” Bishop said. “These more advanced classes that are offered are making kids think (they) have to be better than (everyone else), and that whole (mentality) is causing more stress than is necessary.”

Richardson said that the stress of school and extracurricular activities are combining.

“(Some of my) former students found themselves spreading themselves too thin,” Richardson said. “It all comes back to what you’re passionate about. It might take your freshman year to decide that, but if year after year you are putting so much pressure on yourself, you’re not going be able to enjoy your high school experience.”

Richardson said that the stress could be eliminated if students only focused on their passions.

“You need to really be in tune with who you are and what you can do and not what others expect you to do,” Richardson said. “If you take the courses that are good for you and if you choose wisely and think about what is going to be a part of your life in the long run you’re going to eliminate the stress.”