The Roar

Striving for Equality

Potomac Falls’ battle for what is long overdue

 Built over 18 years ago in 1997, Potomac Falls High School has won many championships, played many games, and practiced endlessly. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on new high schools, and more millions have been spent on renovations for schools younger than Potomac Falls or schools that have already been previously updated. Not only are the student athletes at Potomac Falls High School at a competitive disadvantage, they are also at a safety risk. Due to the many memories made throughout Potomac Falls, students are now at risk because of the safety conditions throughout our stadium, weight room, baseball fields and more. The time has finally come that we need to do something about it.

 

 From drainage issues in the baseball and softball fields, to rusty stadium restrooms, and a grass field that leads to many game cancellations, the Potomac Falls Athletic Booster Club has now taken lead in hopes of guaranteeing student athletes the resources and facilities similar to other schools across Loudoun County.

 

  “The School Board passed a motion requesting funds for a turf playing surface, renovations to our laundry facility as well as mobile classrooms to combat overcrowding in our school,” said president of the Athletic Booster Club, Kevin Cowden.

 

  “Our kids are competing against schools that have turf fields, versus our school that has to practice on wood floors when the weather doesn’t permit. Often times, when the players take the field for their first game, it’s quite possibly their first time stepping out onto a field as a team all season, whereas schools with turf have been able to practice outside, on grass every day,” said assistant athletic director, Chris Tully. “We’re competing against each other, yet don’t have the same preparation as all the other schools with turf fields. Of course the average kid will not want to practice out in the rain, but if tomorrow is the biggest game of the year, and it’s raining outside, you’re still going to want to want to get that last practice in.”

 

  With a grass field as old as Potomac Falls’, there have been game cancellations, location changes, countless injuries, and loss of practice time, which all leads to an unfair advantage to other athletes with turf. “This is a community matter and we must band together and become agents for change. Let us ensure level playing fields, honest competition, and balance across our ever growing county,” said Cowden.

 

 Dr. Elizabeth Noto, principal of Potomac Falls said, “At the meeting there were a bunch of parents and students there. We had great representation as well. It was great to see the amount of people come out to support Potomac Falls.”

 

  Not only will these renovations help with fairness among games, they will help with the safety for student athletes. There are serious health and safety issues that exist in the Potomac Falls athletic facilities which have been placing student athletes and the community at risk.

  For example, baseball restrooms are continuously flooded, many near-misses in stands from foul balls due to low baseball fences, unsafe conditions and equipment in the weight room, game fields routinely flooded, and even supporters in our home stadium stands are required to walk through ankle-deep water to enter/exit due to poor drainage issues.

  With such renovations, the advantages will outweigh the costs. There are many well known advantages to having turf, rather than a grass field. “Grass fields are only used for games because of how vulnerable the field is. With turf, PE classes can get out more often, marching bands can practice, and the field can be used by the community as well which is a great way to bring in more revenue for the school and to bring our community closer together,” said Brenda Sheridan, a member of the Loudoun County Public School’s school board.

 

 For a school that has been opened for more than 20 years, many complaints have been voiced about the problems around Potomac Falls. “It’s more about getting away from the emotional aspects of the argument, and more towards the facts,” said Debbie Rose, a member of the LCPS school board. “When the community becomes vocal, that is how they will get the necessary attention for what they want. No one has really come to me and said that the turf fields for Potomac Falls are a really big problem.”

 

  Not only have members of the athletic booster constantly been voicing their opinions and complaints, they have also been hoping for necessary updates for things that teachers, students, coaches and administration use everyday.

 “Every year we [the school board] will put everything that needs to be updated on a cycle. For example, every 10 years, a generator update will be put on that list, and it will then be updated. Therefore, your school hasn’t been neglected in that aspect of necessary things needing to be updated. Everything that is on the list in order to maintain your building is happening, and will continue happening,” said Rose. Yet in the last 20 years, Potomac Falls has not gotten any of the very necessary updates such as new heaters, new refrigerators, fire alarms and especially, expansions.

 

  Freedom High School, which was opened less than 11 years ago in 2005, has already had a 13,000 square foot expansion prior to the 2015-2016 school year to help alleviate overcrowding. On the other hand, Potomac Falls has yet to have any expansion in the 20 years since it has been opened. Potomac Falls now has every classroom packed with 25-30 students per class. Not only are students learning in packed classrooms, others are in computer labs and some in small rooms that are mainly meant for storage.

 

 Student athletes have been braving through the cramped classrooms and moldy laundry facilities, but the want and need for turf fields has seemed to override all other wants for athletic directors, coaches and athletes.

 

 “I’m very happy about hopefully getting turf fields. It’s long overdue and something that Potomac Falls truly deserves. With turf, the ball moves faster and the playing field is much more level, whereas grass is bumpy and unpredictable,” said junior Gabriella Darling, a varsity soccer player.

Not only do soccer balls move faster and less ankles are twisted, but maintenance of the field decreases greatly.

 “Being assistant AD the turf field would impact my job positively. A lot of time is spent maintaining a grass field, such as cutting and painting it when that time can be spent on other stuff. It also helps the athletic custodian. He’ll be spending less time cutting the grass and more time maintaining the facilities,” said Tully.

  Everyone has very high expectations for renovations at Potomac Falls, especially regarding the turf field. “The number one thing is to be able to get in every practice despite the weather,” said head football coach, Jason Allen.

  For Dr. Noto, flexibility is her highest expectation. “With turf fields, we will not only have to worry about weather or maintenance but also Parks and Rec could also come to use our field so we would become much more of a community,” said Noto. With a turf field, more revenue will be brought in, fewer games will be cancelled, there will be proper pre-season preparations, and more.

 

  “Everyone is all competing for the same things, so we want to have as much opportunity as we can to get out there on our field, so our teams will play well, get attention and be successful,” said Noto.

 

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