Category Archives: Middle School

New School Year, New Schedule

By Meghan Heredia and Jack Okun

For the fourth time in as many years, Oak Hall’s bell schedule for the Middle and Upper School has been changed for the 2021-22 school year. The schedule from previous school years flipped only the last two periods of the day (F and G periods). If a student was excused early from school to attend an athletic competition, they would always miss one of those periods. This year, however, depending on the day and time the student is dismissed, the period rotation of C, D, F, G ensures the same class (or two classes) aren’t constantly missed. “I like how [the schedule] flips the classes around because I have swimming and have to be excused from class a lot,” said seventh grader Tanner White. In addition, this school year introduced a 20-minute period called “SOAR” which stands for Student Organization and Academic Readiness.

The bell schedule for the two divisions was changed for a reason. “Every schedule has good things and bad things,” said Middle School Head Dr. Diana Murdock. “Always trying to balance the needs of students, our sports teams, our teachers, the Upper School, the Middle School, there are a lot of different things at play. It was tweaked to try to meet the needs of all of those people,” she continued.

The intended purpose of SOAR in the Upper School is to make sure students and teachers have a set amount of free time to meet about classwork. Some students, however, choose not to use this time wisely. “Most of the time I just hang out. But if I have homework I need to finish, I will do that,” said senior Ryan Parker. Students meet with their advisory groups every Tuesday and Thursday during the SOAR period for planned activities from school counselor Darcy Paré. Another change to the Upper School schedule is assembly. Assembly occurs four days per week before school. At assemblies, announcements are made regarding clubs, school events, and upcoming sport competitions. “Personally, I believe assembly should be limited to two days a week,” said senior Ria Patel.

SOAR in the Middle School, however, is set so students meet with their advisory groups daily. They play games, do activities, and study or do homework. Another major difference with the Middle School schedule is the frequency of assemblies. In the Middle School, assemblies occur every so often during the SOAR period.

While it is too early in the school year to see if the new schedule is making a difference with classwork, missed classes, or advisory, whenever the schedule is changed the goal is to always help the students. “Ultimately, our goal is always to do what is best for our students,” said Assistant Middle School Director Blair Fils.

MS and US Students Prepare for Midterms

By Emily Malloy

Of all of the changes to schools we have witnessed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one stands out more than the rest. Schools have moved some students to distance learning either by choice, or required quarantine because they became ill, or by contact tracing. For Oak Hall Middle and Upper School students, midterms and exams determine a huge part of their overall semester grade. With the coronavirus forcing many people to stay home and bans on group gatherings, many measures have been introduced for the exams that students have been preparing to take. 

Students prepare their whole semester for the midterms by ensuring they keep up with past material so they can be prepared. Considering the amount of time and stress students put into this test, some questions have been raised about how midterms will be completed by online students this year. Although colleges cannot see grades earned in Middle School, students and teachers still take these exams very seriously to make sure students are prepared for what’s to come at the Upper School, and just to assess what they have learned during the semester. Kelly Warm, Assistant Director of the Middle School and the Director of Teaching and Learning says that for in-person students, the Middle School using the same structure as last year, having midterms by period with the proctoring done by the teacher of the class. For online students, It will be the same schedule as in-person students, but done at home with a lockdown browser in place to avoid cheating. For the extra time students or students with certain accommodations in the Middle School, the schedule is the same, but they will have a break at noon and be able to return to the classroom to complete their exam. In an attempt not to overwhelm students, some teachers are doing an end of the year project or essay instead of an exam. “I think it is very important to balance the workload for the kids,” Warm said. Midterms for eighth graders will count for 20 percent of the final grade with seventh graders at 15 percent and sixth graders at 10 percent. 

John Perlette, Director of the Upper School, says that in-person exams will be very similar to last year, as exams will be from 9 a.m. until noon and are 20 percent of the final semester grade. Students who have been in-person all semester cannot decide to go online for midterms unless there is a valid reason. In order to maintain the safest environment possible, classes will most likely stay together unless there are two very small classes they may combine, but other combinations that make bigger numbers will be in bigger areas like the Student Center or Media Center. Teachers have the option of proctoring their own exam, but since Upper School teachers teach numerous periods, and different subjects throughout the day, they will be considered a “rover” and can go into classrooms to answer questions. If a student misses their exam, it can be made up after the winter break. Much like the Middle School, the Upper School midterms are about mastery. “I think that everybody is going to write exams keeping in mind what they were able to accomplish this semester, and they will be written fairly and in such a way to determine what it is we really want to know, which is have you mastered the skills we have been trying to teach you all semester,” said Perlette.

Upper School Science Department Head and science teacher, Kristin Wilson, says the Upper School science department is allowing students to have an open note midterm in order to level the playing field for in-person and online students. “For Physics and Chemistry, it is quite hard to have a completely online exam due to equations, calculations, numbers and showing work – so students will be doing paper exams in person, and for online, viewing a PDF of the test and writing their answers down and [are] emailing them back as a PDF,” Wilson said. For her biology class, she has decided to give her exam through Canvas even though in previous years her midterms were paper exams. Paper exams are increasingly difficult this year since so many students are online, a digital version seemed like the better option. 

Midterm Information

  • The last day for teachers to teach new content is Tuesday, Dec. 8. Review days are Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 9-11.
  • Temperature checks will still be a requirement, please plan your schedule accordingly.

Middle School

The following core classes will give a midterm exam or paper/project according to the schedule below.

  • 6th Grade: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, STEM
  • 7th and 8th Grades: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Language
Mon. Dec 14Tues. Dec. 15Wed. Dec. 16Thurs. Dec. 17Fri. Dec. 18
6th gradeB periodC periodE periodF periodG period
7th gradeA periodB periodD periodF periodG period
8th gradeA periodC periodD periodE periodG period
Middle School midterm schedule

Upper School

  • For students who don’t have an exam on a certain day (ex. a student does not take a foreign language), they do not need to come to school.
  • All students must remain in their exam rooms until at least 10:30 a.m. After that, students are dismissed for the day upon completion of their exam (students have until noon to complete the exam).
  • The full exam schedule will be posted mid-week at various locations in the Upper School.
  • If a student has an exam conflict – some students have two Science classes, for example – please see Coach Perlette as soon as possible so that it can be resolved. Conflict exams will be offered daily at 1:00 p.m.
Date of ExamExam Subject
Monday, Dec. 14Mathematics
Tuesday, Dec. 15History
Wednesday, Dec. 16World Languages
Thursday, Dec. 17Science
Friday, Dec. 18English
Upper School midterm schedule

OHS Libraries Adjust With Online Book Check Out

By Jenna Poppell

Because of COVID-19, the sense of normalcy at Oak Hall School has changed, including how the libraries on campus do business. Oak Hall’s online library catalog has been in place for some time, but there hasn’t been much of a need to utilize some of its features until this year. The website has become a great way to safely check out books and quickly access material. 

Evelyn Smith, the Middle and Upper School Media Specialist, says the online library is not only beneficial for students interested in listening to an audiobook and reading, but has many helpful databases such as World Book Online, EBSCO, and JSTOR. The databases aid students in any research for projects, or articles they may need for class. This is a very convenient change from the card catalog, where books once had to be looked up by the author or title on small pieces of paper. 

Good bye card catalog…hello technology!

In addition, print books can also be checked out from either the Lower or Upper School library. After a student puts a book on hold through the online library, it is checked out and delivered to one of the student’s classes or is available for curbside pick-up. The library is taking strict precautions to ensure the safety of all Oak Hall students eager to read. Smith noted that the Lower and Upper School libraries worked together with Oak Hall’s Re-Entry Committee to develop the current library policies and are being updated as the COVID-19 science evolves, and more research is done. “Print books can safely be checked out, but they need to be quarantined for a minimum of 72 hours to a maximum of six days after they are returned, depending on how they are stored while in quarantine,” stated Smith. 

To access the online library catalog, please click here!

The OHS online library home screen

September’s Eagle of the Month: Julie Black

By Sarah Youngblood

Oak Hall School’s sixth and seventh grade world cultures teacher, Julie Black, is September’s “Eagle of the Month”! Black is being celebrated and recognized for her dedication to teaching and talent in the classroom. She has been a teacher at the Middle School for 23 years. “[Eagle of the Month] is a wonderful way to be recognized by people whom you respect and admire,” Black said. 

Eagle of the Month is a way for teachers, faculty, and staff to be recognized and appreciated for their dedication to the school. Each month a different teacher or faculty member is nominated and chosen to be the “Eagle of the Month”, which comes with and win prizes that congratulate them on their talent and leadership. As stated on Oak Hall’s website, these prizes include “an Eagle pin for their name badge, $100, a feature on Oak Hall’s website, and a shout out on Oak Hall’s social media platform”. Faculty, staff, administration, parents, and/or students can fill out the form to nominate a teacher or faculty member whom they think has been positively contributing to the school’s community. People who are excluded from nominations include members on the One School Team. This is a team of the school’s top administrators who meet weekly to collaborate and discuss current topics at Oak Hall. It is outlined on the school’s website that they are looking for nominees with the following traits to be honored as “Eagle of the Month”: Excellence on Campus, Motivation, Leadership, Creativity & Imagination, Dedication, and Communication.

When asked on why she became a teacher, Black stated she loves to learn and be in the presence of people. “It is so much fun planning lessons and projects for the students,” she said. Black enjoys teaching Middle School because of the student’s sense of humor. Her favorite part about teaching is “being in class with students and planning projects.” She jokes that for her 23rd year as a teacher she hopes she “will get things right this year”. “It is a great experience to watch students grow up,” she added. If she wasn’t a teacher, she would be writing children’s books or creating digital curriculum.

Black is incredibly proud of the Middle Schoolers and her colleagues for coming back this school year. “They are working hard and doing everything they can to keep the school open,” she commented. 

To nominate a faculty or staff member for “Eagle of the Month”, please visit this website.

Science Labs Adjust to COVID Restrictions

By Kaylee Rowe

Science labs have always been an integral part of the learning process for students. These hands-on in school projects help students achieve a better understanding of why a certain science theory works. With the new COVID-19 guidelines, labs can be difficult to perform. The Upper and Middle School science department is working on tackling this issue head on.  

Kristin Wilson, Upper School science teacher and science department head, along with her colleagues have worked on adapting to the guidelines, while researching new lesson plans for almost all science classes. For lesson plans for COVID-19, we had to rethink how we do lab activities,” Wilson stated. “We are still struggling with how to incorporate our online students into the lab,” she continued. Quinn Bohan, Upper School physics teacher, and Dr. Sharon Karackattu (affectionately known as Dr. K.) Upper School chemistry teacher, both have been working hard on changing their classes to adapt to the COVID lab terms. “The biggest challenge was educating the students about proper personal protective equipment and making sure each student always has their own pair of safety-rated goggles on lab day,” Dr. K. explained. A new challenge has been student responsibility for maintaining their own lab equipment. 

Students in Dr. K.’s class take precautions during labs due to COVID-19 restrictions

Other teachers have decided to alter their lesson plans. “I’ve changed my curriculum so that all of our labs in physics will be completed in a separate seven-week module at the start of March, rather than at the same time we learn the material,” said Bohan. “I’ve also had to change my lesson plans to include a lot more demonstrations and a slightly quicker pace to finish with the material we need to cover before starting our lab module,” he added. Each teacher has worked on slightly altering their lesson plans to be able to fit labs into the curriculum. 

The Middle School has been working on adapting to some of these challenges as well. Scott Davenport, Middle School life science teacher, noted that he has struggled with some of the same situations as his Upper School colleagues. “Challenges are how to manage close contact of students with a full class and time needed to clean all equipment properly before next use,” Davenport noted. 

Students have always been required to take precautionary measures when handling lab equipment, but in the midst of a pandemic, the measures are heightened. Because of this, confusion and difficulties have occurred while trying to create a lab. “We had a long discussion about using gloves in the lab for every activity this year,” Wilson said. “Sometimes we use innocuous items like eggs and vinegar, everyone knows that household materials would not normally require gloves, but we discussed whether everyone should wear gloves this year no matter what,” she continued. 

The hardest part for all the teachers and students at Oak Hall has been trying to adapt to these new COVID-19 restrictions. The science teachers agree that they have had to do a lot more work and preparations before starting any labs. “I will have only the AP Chemistry students in lab on Monday and then take down their lab and set up another lab for the first-year chemistry students on Wednesday,” Dr K. explained. “Last year I might have had both labs set up simultaneously for the same day and just had certain tables dedicated to the AP labs, and other tables dedicated to the first-year labs,” she continued. This extra work can be a hassle to handle, however, Dr. K. mentioned the additional work is worth seeing students excited while doing a lab. 

An OHS student helps her distance learning peer with a science lab

When it comes to distance learning students, Wilson has her students work on FaceTime to help the online students see what is occurring in the lab, which is an extra step from what was required last year. “My in-class students have been good sports about it, even going to far as to put the camera from their phone onto the eyepiece of the microscope so the online students could ‘see’ what everyone else was seeing on the slides we were viewing,” Wilson explained. 

COVID- 19 might be a big roadblock in the way when it comes to science labs, but the virus isn’t powerful enough to stop the Oak Hall faculty from making science labs possible for their students.