Enrollment at Upper School Defies COVID Possibilities

By Sarah Rosenberg

Just three years ago, the number of students at Oak Hall School was fairly low and borderline worrisome. As of the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, every grade in the high school is at full capacity based on the regulations put into place from COVID-19. These numbers may puzzle people simply because of the current financial situation of the country and even world. Additionally, the question remains what has sparked the rapid increase of students? To understand the dramatic shift that Oak Hall School has made it is important to consider all the factors.  

First and foremost, new leadership has made leaps and bounds to make Oak Hall a competitive choice for families. Oak Hall’s Head of School Dr. James Hutchins, Upper School Division Head John Perlette, Middle School Division Head Dr. Diana Murdock, and Lower School Division Head Michelle Mills, have worked together with faculty and staff to bring the three divisions closer together. Uniforms have been implemented in all divisions, renovations to campus have continue to occur, and programs such as the Arts Conservatory Program, the Junior Classical League, and numerous athletic programs continue to thrive.  

Looking at this year specifically, it would not have been surprising to Oak Hall administrators to see a decrease in enrollment due to the financial strain that COVID-19 has placed on some families. In actuality, the opposite seems to have happened. Enrollments numbers increased relative to the availability per grade due to COVID-19 in the Upper School. “We have limited the number of students we are accepting this school year due to COVID-19,” said Nancy Coleman, Oak Hall’s Director of Enrollment Management. “We have filled each grade in the Upper School to the maximum capacity we are allowing for the 2020-21 school year,” she continued.  

The reopening plans the COVID-19 task force prepared over the summer put families minds at ease. With proper precautions taken, Oak Hall was ready to open its doors on Aug. 18. In addition to the re-entry plan, sheer population size is important to take into account. The public schools in Gainesville have on average close to 4,000 students. Oak Hall has around240 students in the Upper School. Families have weighed their options and made the decision that Oak Hall is well worth it for them even during such rocky times.