A CliffsNotes Version of Leap Year

By Grace Bernstein

Today is February 29, 2020 (well, when this article was posted it was February 29, 2020). Normally, February only has 28 days, but every four years our calendar has what is commonly known as a “Leap Year”. In reality, a leap year only adds one extra day in February to keep the Gregorian calendar in line with the astronomical calendar. 

This begs the questions: what is an astronomical calendar, why does it change our calendar every four years, and what exactly is the Gregorian calendar? To start off, the Gregorian calendar is the most used calendar in the world. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII named the Gregorian calendar as the new way to mark dates. It was very different from its predecessor, the Julian calendar, as it had four less days, and it did not properly reflect the actual time it takes the Earth to circle once around the Sun. Our current calendar focuses on the accurate timeframe for how long it takes the Earth to rotate around the Sun, which gives us approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds each year (but who’s really counting?). Because of that, every four years we have a leap year (in reality, it’s more of a leap day) in order to match the astronomical calendar.

The astronomical calendar is actually a grouping of calendars that follow celestial events like moon phases, eclipses, and other astronomy occurrences. It doesn’t help that astronomical cycles are incredibly inconsistent and aren’t always in tune with each other. The lunar calendar and Julian calendar are just two examples of calendars that make up the aforementioned “grouping”, which is different from the solar Gregorian calendar. 

Because the two calendars are different, but the world uses both of them, the Gregorian calendar has a leap year every four years (but only when the year is divisible by four) in order to keep the calendars in sync with the rest of the world. The next leap year occurs in 2024, then 2028, and so on.

And now you know…and knowing is half the battle!

OHS Summer Camp Early Registration Available

By Antony Stark

For more than 25 years, Oak Hall School has offered its students, and the greater Gainesville community, an opportunity to have some fun in the sun and create memorable experiences with its annual summer camp. Oak Hall Summer Camp (OHSC) full-day camps are offered for students beginning in pre-kindergarten through Middle School age, with many elective and specialty camps weekly. To get a taste of what OHSC has to offer, a preview day is scheduled for March 12, from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. 

OHSC has multiple day camps to offer, including; Pre-Kindergarten half and full-day camp, Junior Kindergarten and Lower School camp, and “Adventure Camp” which is offered to Middle Schoolers. Elective camps range from sports camps, like soccer, which is run by current boys soccer varsity coach Adam Christensen. Other elective camps include “Builders and Wreckers” camp where kids can build Legos in their own creative way…and then destroy their creations. Specialty camps include “Flutters Me Shutters” which is a camp where students learn how to use different lenses on cameras and take trips to places like the zoo to practice. 

With Lower and Middle School students participating in camp, Upper School students are given the opportunity to become camp counselors via the Counselors in Training (CIT) program. Rising freshmen through seniors are able to become CIT’s, since there are no camps offered for that age range. Becoming a CIT can help students receive hours that go toward their service hour requirement to graduate. Current seniors graduating in May can still become camp counselors but earn money instead of service hours. Counselors are responsible for running camps and are expected to plan out events and activities for the whole day.

Full-day camps begin on June 1 and end on July 31. Early registration for the camps begins on Feb. 28 and closes on April 15. Although normal registration for camps don’t close until the capacity has been filled, a wait list is created for overflow. OHSC is open to not just Oak Hall students, but students who attend other schools. The Oak Hall summer program will also offer need-based assistance. A family can apply for need-based assistance, even if their children don’t attend Oak Hall. To learn more about Oak Hall’s summer camp, and to register early for camps, please visit: http://oakhallsummerprogram.org

Editorial: The Morality of Capital Punishment

By Lauren Cohen

As defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary, capital punishment is “the practice of killing people as punishment for serious crimes.” The justification often used for capital punishment is revenge and retribution. Advocates of capital punishment cite biblical references such as “an eye for an eye” and the prohibition against murder in the Ten Commandments. Yet, there are multiple arguments against the use of capital punishment in modern society. I believe it is vitally important to abolish the use of capital punishment. 

With respect to its effectiveness, there is little evidence to suggest that the threat of capital punishment is a deterrent to those committing murder. One of the arguments for capital punishment is that if people know they will be executed for committing a murder, they will be less likely to kill. Unfortunately, most murders are not rational acts in which the killer has weighed the pros and cons of the aforementioned crime. The majority of murders occurring in the United States involve acts against people that are well known to the assailant, such as acts of domestic violence or violence in the workplace. Many of these crimes involve acts of passion or uncontrolled emotion in which the perpetrator has become enraged or hateful to the point where they do not inhibit their aggressive impulses. Personal conflict is at the root of many of these murders. Among the increase of mass shootings, there is little evidence to suggest that the perpetrators gave strong consideration to the possibility of receiving capital punishment since in many cases, the perpetrator planned to die during the attacks. Even if one stipulates that capital punishment provides retribution for the families of the victim, incarcerating an individual for life (or an extended period of time) ultimately has longer term impact on perpetrators. I feel the ability for a murderer to choose whether to take the easy way out (death) or live with his/her life choices has a direct impact on everyone affected by the crime. 

The argument against deterrents is reinforced by the fact that states which prohibit capital punishment have a much lower prevalence of homicide than states which enforce the death penalty. As reported in a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states with the highest homicide rates are those in the southern United States in which capital punishment is legal. In contrast, states in the northeast and midwest that have large populations but prohibit the death penalty have significantly lower homicide rates. Since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty (following Furman v. Georgia which ruled it unconstitutional in 1972) executions have occurred in the majority of the states that currently commit capital punishment, as homicide rates remain high. Accordingly, there is little basis for concluding that capital punishment has a significant effect of deterring murder in those states. 

Besides being ineffective as a deterrent, there are a number of other reasons why capital punishment should not be legal in the United States. There is great inconsistency in the way that the death penalty is applied in murder cases. The likelihood of receiving the death penalty is much greater among African Americans than Caucasians. Significant racial biases exist in this regard, raising constitutional issues as to the rendering of equal justice. As conducted in a study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), African Americans have accounted for a disproportionate 43 percent of total executions since 1976, and 55 percent of those currently awaiting execution, which is much greater than the percentage of African Americans in the population. Murder rates are not significantly greater among African Americans, supporting the conclusion that the administration of justice is being differentially administered by race.

Another compelling argument against capital punishment comes from the fact that there is no reversal of execution. There are an alarming number of cases in which the convict was found guilty of murder but then subsequently, exonerated based on the discovery of DNA, (or other evidence that was considered during the trial) or by the incompetence of public defenders representing the convict during their trial. Once a person is executed, this type of error and injustice cannot be corrected. Over the last several decades, The Innocence Project has been working to support the appeals of individuals who have wrongfully been put on death row. One example is that of Rodney Reed who was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder and spent 21 years on death row before he was finally released. The pioneering work in the use of DNA evidence taken from the crime scene has enabled defense attorney’s like Barry Scheck to demonstrate the innocence of a number of convicted death row inmates. The ACLU, in collaboration with The Innocence Project, has worked to exonerate individuals who have previously been executed but were later determined to be innocent on the basis of genetic analyses. The Equal Justice Initiative also conducts important efforts that lead to the overturning of capital punishment judgements in a number of cases. Furthermore, the economic cost of keeping prisoners on death row where they go through years of appeals far exceeds the cost of incarcerating murders for life, if it is justified. 

When the Supreme Court banned capital punishment in 1972, the basis for the decision was that the death penalty represented “cruel and unusual punishment”. The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” In the past, executions were carried out through a variety of methods, many which caused extreme and prolonged agony. For example, execution by lethal gas causes extreme pulmonary distress prior to death, while hanging often results in long periods of strangulation before death occurs. The degree of variability across states and even localities makes it difficult to ensure that cruel punishment has not been inflicted. In recent years, states have adopted lethal injection as a way of addressing this problem. Even this mode of execution, however, often results in periods of intense pain if it is not carried out correctly. In addition, there is a lack of consistency in the drugs that are used for this purpose. Perhaps if a completely painless and fool proof form of execution was ever established, the argument regarding cruel and unusual punishment could be partially addressed, though even in this case, a strong argument can be made that any form of killing is cruel. 

Beyond issues regarding its effectiveness, cost, and fairness, there are moral and ethical dilemmas associated with capital punishment. Perhaps the most compelling argument for the death penalty arises from the sentiment that the family of the murder victim deserves justice, and experiences relief once the murderer is executed. While some families feel relief and resolution after the execution, in many cases these emotions are short lived, and the victims’ loved ones typically never feel healed. A related issue is the societal cost of engaging in large scale practices of executions. The United States is one of the few democratic countries (and the only one in western society) to continue to execute people in the modern era. Executing a murderer involves an act of killing another human being. While this may be justified based on the principle of retribution, I believe it remains a primitive response. In Canada, Europe, and most of South America where capital punishment is banned, executions are viewed as barbaric.

Ultimately, does society need to stoop to the level of committing violent executions as a response to the violence of others? The United States is experiencing an epidemic of polarization, violence, and incivility. Executions feed into this cycle of violence. If a society permits violent executions, violence begets more violence. Incarcerations are a more humane and rational alternative. A just society which chooses to ban capital punishment sets a positive example and delivers the message that violence is not an acceptable form of behavior. If one weighs the large number of arguments against capital punishment relative to its primary rationale of providing retribution, efforts should be directed at establishing laws or future Supreme Court rulings that once again ban capital punishment in this country. 

Human Foosball Tournament to Benefit March of Dimes

By Amanda Malnik

On Saturday, March 7, from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Oak Hall School, in conjunction with Gainesville’s Chain Reaction Youth Leadership Council, is hosting a human foosball tournament aptly named “Ballin’ for Babies”, to raise money for the March of Dimes. 

The rules for human foosball are just like the table version, minus the fact that human foosball players hold onto a pole to move instead of using a pole to guide players on a table. Teams of six to eight players compete against each other in an arena, and like the table version, human foosball players can only move from side to side, not front to back. Each player has their own position on the pole so they can shift around, but any player’s hands must be on the bar at all times! 

Seniors Antony Stark (left) and Colby Curtis celebrate a goal at last year’s “Ballin’ for Babies” event
Photo courtesy of Lexi Bryant

This year, one of the main food vendors is The Bagel Bakery. The sponsors supporting the event are weFooz, Studio 32 Orthodontics, Balance 180, Apple Time, Bird Rack Realty, Waldorff Insurance & Bonding, Gainesville Health and Fitness, Dragonfly Graphics, IMPACT Weight Management, and Share Skincare Solutions. Some sponsors will have booths to visit with merchandise and information to share.

“The event was a huge success last year…we had more teams than we anticipated show up at the door and it was a very fun day with some tough competition,” said Katie Marshall, the President of Chain Reaction. With the help of all of the sponsors and attendees, the event last year raised more than $1300. Admission as a player, which comes with a t-shirt, costs $15, and food is $5. A spectator ticket costs $10.  

To register as a player or volunteer, please visit: https://wefooz.redpodium.com/balling-for-babies

Spring Book Fair Enhances Reading Culture

By Lauren Cohen

Spring book fair season is soon upon us and students, families, and faculty alike are excited for the newest selections! From Feb. 24 to Feb. 28, the Scholastic Book Fair is coming back to Oak Hall School at the Faisal Family Media Center from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. While the book fair is open to the greater-Gainesville community, it is primarily a school event. Each year, the book fair has a different theme, and this semester, the library transforms into a jungle. 

“[The book fair] benefits the children because we want to create a reading culture at Oak Hall,” said Upper School Media Specialist Evelyn Smith. These annual book fairs, in collaboration with Scholastic have helped promote the value of reading in school. “We want kids to continue reading because reading is exercise for their brains,” Smith continued. 

Fifth grader Jonah S. takes a look at a book during the fall book fair

The fair sells everything from small, little trinkets like erasable pens, highlighters, and notebooks, to posters, and of course, books! There is a wide selection of books ranging from thrillers and horror to romance and historical fiction. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Ademeni is currently the top pick for Smith. It tells the tale of West African cultures, and Smith notes that it’s like the “African Harry Potter” with elements of magic and a fight against oppressive rule.  

The fair accepts all forms of payment except for Apple Pay. This includes cash, cards, checks, and even the e-wallet, which allows parents to create an account for their children with a specified amount of money that can be used when they are at the fair. “In other words, you don’t have to worry about sending a kid with a debit card or cash,” Smith noted. The e-wallet provides itself as a nice alternative for both students and parents alike. 

Lower School Media Specialist Joanna Brailer helps kindergartners fill out their wishlists during the fall book fair

“Lower School kids love the way the library transforms,” said Smith. “They love the decorations, they love the posters, they love the smell of the new books…It’s like watching your children come in on Christmas Day,” she continued. The annual book fairs are an exciting time for many Oak Hall students as they have the opportunity to enwrap themselves in a world filled with knowledge. For many students, returning to the book fair brings a sense of nostalgia. “I remember going and getting excited about the magic wands,” Oak Hall sophomore Eva Okunieff reminisced. 

A number of volunteer opportunities are available for Middle and Upper School students, including helping younger students sign up for books through wishlists, straightening merchandise, unpacking boxes that arrive, and cash-registering which is preferred amongst the Upper School students. Students can volunteer from 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. on any of the given days and if they have a free period, they can utilize that time as well. To sign-up as a volunteer, please visit: https://www.scholastic.com/bf/oakhallschool1