ASL to be introduced at Mason


Photos by Megan Clinton

“Mason ASL” spelled using American Sign Language. Photos by Megan Clinton; edited by Eleanor Kay.

Megan Clinton and Emma McDonald

On January 15, 2018, the school board unanimously approved the American Sign Language (ASL) I course for the 2019-2020 school year. The course itself was taken out of the Program of Studies at Mason due to the lack of student interest and enrollment over time. 2011 was the last year that the course was offered to Mason students.

For the upcoming year, it will be offered for students in grades 7-12. The ASL courses can be used as a student’s world language credit or an elective credit. It will be a course that will fulfill the Advanced Diploma requirements, but will not fulfill IB Diploma requirements.

“We’ve had some very passionate advocacy from parents and from students, advocacy that I have found particularly compelling, especially the notion that it would enable special education students to pursue the Advanced Education Diploma that would otherwise not be available,” said FCCPS School Board Vice Chairman Phil Reitinger.

As the Advanced Studies Diploma requires three years of one language or two years of two languages, the new ASL class will provide students who have disabilities or otherwise struggle with learning a foreign language to receive the credits towards the Advanced Diploma.

“It is appropriate for not only general ed students, or students with advanced academic skill, but also our special education students. So it opens a door for a lot of kids who may not be able to access a world language that is more complicated, because of the language barrier that some of our students may experience,” said Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan.

The ASL I course will focus on receptive and expressive language skills, the appropriate behaviors of sign language, the respect the deaf culture, and the history of deaf culture. Grammar and vocabulary will be emphasized in the curriculum.

“The Virginia Department of Education recognizes American Sign Language as a Foreign Language course that will satisfy the requirement for credits toward an Advanced Studies Diploma,” said Chief Academic Officer Lisa High.

In addition to ASL I, the counseling office plans to offer more levels as students move and advance to higher levels of ASL.

“We are starting with ASL I next year and then hopeful we will be able to grow our program with higher levels every year,” said Director of Counseling Ilana Reyes.

On Wednesday, February 6, Mason had the course selection fair during the Wild Horse Wednesday block in which there was an ASL class interest session. There were three 15 minute sessions within the block each filled with curious students, including junior Julia Rosenberger.

“I grew up learning it [ASL] and would love to develop my skills. I feel like it’s a really cool and helpful tool to have in this world so that you can communicate with a wide range of people,” said Rosenberger.

If there is sufficient interest from students at MEH and GMHS, the ASL I class will be offered starting in the fall.