Upper School Dress Code Changes to Uniforms

By Aiden Wacksman

At the beginning of this school year, the Oak Hall administrative body, along with a committee made up of students and administrators, implemented uniforms for the Upper School (US) students. This decision has been rather controversial, as some students believe that the new uniforms have lessened their ability to express themselves. Administrators, however, believe that uniforms are necessary, as some students weren’t adhering to last years’ non-uniform dress code. 

“I understand the need for uniforms, but I think it’s very unlike Oak Hall,” said Rebecca Lillie, an Oak Hall sophomore. Lillie explained that the dress code from last year set Oak Hall apart from other private schools, and it gave students a sense of individuality. She noted how embroidering clothing, which is a requirement for the current school year, takes a long time for companies to produce, and costs a lot of money. “What if you need a winter coat embroidered,” she asked genuinely. Lillie felt that last years’ dress code provided more freedom, and especially emphasized how it must have been a letdown for 8th graders to learn that they were required to wear uniforms in the US. She articulated that “last year’s dress code was a privilege” for US students, and she was disappointed that it was taken away.

On the other hand, Oak Hall junior Charlie Delatorre believes that the logos on the uniforms aren’t necessary. “I thought last year’s dress code was fine, and the new uniforms are really expensive,” he said. Delatorre, however, has accepted the new uniform policy. “Even though I don’t really like the uniforms, there’s nothing we can do about it, so I’ve just accepted my fate,” he stated.

Upper School students are now required to wear uniforms with the Oak Hall logo.

“The decision to change the dress code came up about five years ago,” said David Jackson, Oak Hall’s Assistant Head of School. When the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) visited Oak Hall during its last accreditation period, the representative explained the only thing the school might need to improve upon is the dress code. The administration experimented with several different options, but uniforms seemed to be the primary solution. “Not only do uniforms lessen concern about what students are wearing, but it’s also beneficial from a security standpoint,” Jackson said. Logos are required on clothing as a means to determine if someone belongs on campus. “I think that uniforms make things easier for both teachers and students,” Jackson stated, while explaining that uniforms provide stability and “clear up any gray areas” about the dress code.

Another reason a uniform dress code was implemented this year was because students were continuously violating dress code in previous years. Teachers had to repeatedly issue dress code violations to students, which became a nuisance throughout the year. Kristin Wilson, an US science teacher, and head of the US science department, is in agreement with the uniform dress code. “As a teacher, the uniforms make it a lot easier for me to monitor the dress code,” she said. Wilson also emphasized how the uniforms are very beneficial from a marketing perspective. “The logos on the uniforms let people know that Oak Hall exists,” she explained.

“Sometimes, people don’t like change, but if it’s for the overall good, we should embrace the change,”

RJ Fuhr, US Dean of Students

US English teacher Scott Campbell thought the logos might look better if there was one standard shirt. “Logos on multiple shirts don’t look too good aesthetically,” he said. This, however, is his only critique of the new uniforms, as he believes that it provides a chance for students to not have to worry about what they wear. “If there weren’t any uniforms, there would be a lot of emphasis on what students wear to school,” he said. Campbell hopes the uniform dress code will provide a more studious environment for the students.

Libby Karow, US Spanish teacher, wasn’t originally an advocate of uniforms. She believed students should be able to pick their own clothes. Karow came to the realization that the dress code had become unenforceable, and teachers didn’t want to be the “dress police”. Karow has been pleasantly surprised by the school’s transition to uniforms, stating that she is impressed “both in the way they look and the way the students have accepted them”. She also explained that uniforms have eliminated the constant controversy about the appropriateness of clothing. “Although the Dean of Students is still having to deal with some nuances, overall, [the transition to uniforms] has been successful,” Karow noted.

Uniforms, on a positive note, have made life easier for students like sophomore Jennifer Berthy. “It’s a lot easier to get dressed in the morning,” she said happily. Berthy thinks that the dress code is rather strict but understood that “it’s hard to accommodate to everyone’s needs”. 

US Dean of Students, RJ Fuhr, suggested the new uniforms promote the idea of professionalism. “A shirt that isn’t tucked in doesn’t look professional,” he said. “At some point in their lives, students are going to have to dress professionally, so it’s better for them to start doing so now,” he continued. Fuhr stated how the new uniforms have made it easier for him to enforce the dress code, explaining how it “takes the ambiguity out of things”. 

John Perlette, Director of the Upper School, concurred with Fuhr, stating that the change to the dress code was for the greater good. He also recalled that a parent survey was conducted 2 years ago, which “indicated there was interest in the idea of uniforms for the upper school”. 

“Sometimes, people don’t like change, but if it’s for the overall good, we should embrace the change,” Fuhr noted.

About the author: Aiden Wacksman is an aspiring journalist/author who enjoys eating chocolate, sleeping, and most of all, writing.

Block Scheduling: The Productivity Game Changer

By Jenna Poppell

This school year, Oak Hall’s Middle and Upper School faculty and administration made the change in its schedule, from students attending seven classes Monday through Friday to attending seven classes Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, and attending four classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The block schedule concept was designed to give students more time to finish tests and labs, which might have taken two class periods to complete in previous school years. 

John Perlette, Director of the Upper School, explained that block scheduling was designed to help students complete assignments. “[Students] really didn’t have enough time to do what [they] needed to do, and do it well,” he said. Another reason for the change was to provide teachers the ability to give longer assessments and assign opportunities to write essays in class. 

Many students at Oak Hall were curious as to why the administration chose Wednesday and Thursday, instead of two other days within the school week. Perlette justified this reasoning because the other days simply didn’t work as well with the school’s schedule. “We had originally suggested going Thursday and Friday, but then we realized there wouldn’t be another contact with some teachers, if you miss Friday, and then the weekend, until Monday,” he noted. 

2019-20 Upper School Schedule, with block days on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The administration has heard many positives since the change took place, and that it has given students time to get more work done during the day. Perlette also recognized that, while for some teachers it may be a challenge at first with adjusting to a longer class period, the change will be worth it in the long run. “I think everybody is going to adapt to this, and find a way to make it work, and make it really successful,” he said enthusiastically. Perlette does not think that in the upcoming years, Oak Hall will change to a complete block schedule, because “going with the modified block, you get the best of both worlds.” 

Upper School Spanish teacher, Libby Karow, was a little hesitant on the change, but understood how it benefited the students. “I think the students feel like the days that are block days go by faster for them,” Karow explained. “I was afraid that the 90 minute class periods would make the days feel longer, but it’s actually been the opposite,” she continued.

Karow also expressed her concern with giving the students too much free time, as the students may not use it the way it was designed. “If a kid’s schedule works out where they have these massive amounts of time that are free and unsupervised, I think that’s probably not for the best,” she added. Karow also discovered that scheduling testing has been a little tricky for her. She feels that the block schedule has made her rethink her approach when planning lessons. On the positive side, Karow notes that she has been given the opportunity to do more class projects where she can advise the students, as opposed to them trying to figure it out alone at home. “I was opposed to the change at first, but looking back, it has worked out to be beneficial in so many ways,” she explained.

2019-20 Middle School Schedule, with block days on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

But how do the students feel about the change? Grace Bernstein, a junior at Oak Hall, expressed that the new “FLEX” period, a period designed to give students time to work, has been one of her favorite parts about this change. “The FLEX period is really nice. It’s a nice time to talk to teachers because everyone is available,” she commented. Bernstein admitted that the system could be improved, and having less schedules would be more efficient. “I think if we were to keep the block schedule, we should make it more than two days,” she suggested. “We have, like, six schedules going on right now and it makes it really confusing for everyone.” 

While Bernstein believes there is room for improvement, she thinks it could be a great change for our school. “If we can really refine the block schedule and have it more laid out, then I think it could be a really useful thing for teachers and students.” 

About the author: Jenna Poppell is a junior at Oak Hall. She is an Eagles swimmer and loves books. After taking Journalism I-Honors last year, Poppell realized her love for writing, and wanted to continue improving in the craft.

New Look, Same Love in the Lower School

By Shailey Klein

Within the past year, Michelle Mills, Director of the Lower School, and Sharon Hogan, Lower School Administrative Assistant, took on the hefty challenge of completely renovating the Lower School building. This task has made significant gains, but is still an ongoing process.

It all started with a clock. The clock directly outside the Lower School office and above the water fountains needed to be replaced. Hogan went to purchase a new clock, and came across a large clock with pops of color, as well as a chevron background, and completely fell in love with it. The bright, colorful clock was a complete decor change for the once drab halls of the Lower School. The color and excitement that came along with this new clock kickstarted a renovation process to completely revamp the Lower School, and make it into a more welcoming environment for the young children who walk the halls everyday. 

With the purchase of the vibrant clock, Mills and Hogan took to paintbrushes and painter’s tape to brighten the walls of the school with bursts of reds, blues, yellows, greens, and even oranges. Mills and Hogan first started with the wall that housed the new clock, and created a mural with a geometric design.

They moved down the hallway toward the P.J. Manson Center, and began to paint the panels below the large windows overlooking the playground. In addition to the panels, the door to each classroom is set in the wall in a small alcove. Mills and Hogan painted each alcove a certain color, which went along with the clock at the end of the wall.

The duo completed this task on the weekends of last school year in order to brighten up the entrance to each classroom. According to Mills, this added a new excitement within the kids for the renovation, as they would be eager to come back to school and see what color their alcove would be. Another change that catches the eye when walking through the halls, are the lockers, which have been painted red. Mills explained that it was the only color that had not been used anywhere, and they wanted to pull the red from the clock. 

The two coworkers stayed after hours throughout the entire summer, transforming the Lower School into what we see today. Significant contributions came from the amazing maintenance crew, especially Bobby Kramer. Affectionately called “Mr. Bobby”, he, along with his fellow maintenance crew, did much of the heavy lifting, specifically with the floor replacement. The Lower School was previously carpeted throughout the entire school (besides the bathrooms and P.J. Manson Center), but was replaced with a brand new soft tile, which is better equipped for the wear and tear of an elementary school. The new tile has a geometric design, with each hallway having its own color. For example, the hallway going toward the P.J. Manson Center is now called the “blue hallway”. Not only do the new floors freshen up the space, it also provides an easier way to address each section of the Lower School. 

One of the largest transformations, however, occurred in the P.J. Manson Center. The floors, which had sported light blue tile for decades, were replaced with the new soft tiles which run throughout the hallways. The accordion doors, in addition to the shelving in the back of the room, were removed to open up the space.

The loft area overlooking the P.J. Manson Center was also cleaned out and turned into an organized teacher supply area, making it much easier for the Lower School teachers to find supplementary supplies which can be used in their classrooms. “We have clear tubs with all our math manipulatives,” Mills said. “There’s everything from clocks to scales to number discs for the teachers to use,” she continued enthusiastically.

At the front of the P.J. Manson Center, the stage tiles were replaced with all black tiles, which make less noise when students are performing. In addition, all of the walls and ceiling of the stage were painted black, making the focus on the students during their performances. 

Overall, the transformation in the Lower School has made the building a more vibrant and exciting environment for the students, faculty, staff, and parents. Mills hopes to revamp everything from renovating the bathrooms to replacing the accordion doors as soon as possible. With all the progress that has been made, it is exciting to see what the future holds for the Lower School!

Photos by Shailey Klein

About the author: Shailey Klein is a junior at Oak Hall and is excited to be writing for “The Talon” this year! She’s on the varsity volleyball and lacrosse teams and is interested in pursuing a career in Sports Journalism/Broadcasting. She’s looking forward to an amazing year connecting everyone from the Lower School to the Upper School in every way, from arts to athletics!

Coffee, Cupcakes, and Community

By Lauren Cohen

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, Patticakes was welcomed into the Oak Hall community, after a quick opening at the campus student store, located within the Administration Building. Students and faculty made their way to the newest attraction on campus to explore the shop and the menu selections, and Patticakes is quickly becoming the buzz of the school!

The newest coffee shop, however, sells more than just coffee. Patticakes is creating a space for good conversation, and food as well. It hopes to encourage students and faculty to gather and share stories with one another.

Emily Welch, the manager of Patticakes, expressed her delight over meeting members of the Oak Hall community, and getting to know the customers. “We love [hearing] stories at Patticakes and getting to know people, what they do, and what their passions are,” she said excitedly. Welch also enjoys being able to meet new people, and learn new faces. Patticakes is all about coffee, cupcakes, and community.

Patticakes manager, Emily Welch.

The store will be open every school day from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., and plans to sell breakfast and lunch. Menu options are spelled out on scrabble pieces, in a creative way to capture the eye of the customer. For breakfast, the menu includes various muffins and quiches; and as for lunch, numerous sandwiches can be ordered including veggie, turkey, ham, and cheese. Aside from breakfast and lunch, Patticakes will serve cupcakes, ice cream, smoothies, tea, and coffee. There are currently many options available for students and faculty; and management is always welcoming suggestions and requests if there is a high demand.

Raquel Sokol, a first-year Oak Hall freshman, is very excited to have this attraction on campus, as she has always been a fan of the original location in Haile Plantation. In addition, Sokol is always happy to see a local business thrive. “I think having a coffee shop on campus is amazing,” she said. “Being able to grab a coffee or a cupcake during lunch is so much fun,” she continued. Sokol is looking forward to spending her free time in Patticakes, while enjoying cups of iced coffee and munching on treats.

The menu at Patticakes, located on Oak Hall’s campus in the Administration Building.

The owner of Patticakes, Jan Patterson, was thrilled to receive a call from Kirk Klein, a member of the Oak Hall School Board, and father of three Eagles, who informed her of the exciting opportunity to open up a new location on Oak Hall’s campus. Patterson enthusiastically accepted the offer, just two weeks before the start of this school year.

In just a short amount of time, Patterson assembled her staff, and got to work. She has been humbled by the kindness and graciousness of the Oak Hall faculty and staff. On the first day, after trying to set up the espresso machine, Patterson began to notice a leak. Thankfully, Oak Hall maintenance worker Fernando Castro, rushed in and helped solve the problem.

One of the greatest challenges of managing a place, beyond technical aspects, is “trying to figure out what the customers want on any given day,” Patterson explained. This challenge excites her, and the Patticakes team, as they begin to learn more about the Oak Hall Community.

“Wherever we can make new friends and grow our community, we are happy to be there,” Patterson said joyfully.

Photos by Lauren Cohen

About the author: Lauren Cohen is an Oak Hall Sophomore and Journalism II Honors student, as well as a staff member for the Oak Hall newspaper, “The Talon”. Lauren loves to express herself through writing, oratory, and photography. In her free time, you can find her writing opinion pieces for “The Gainesville Sun” or doing street art photography. Lauren is humbled to be working for the school newspaper, and looks forward to sharing stories within the school community!

Preview: Fall for the Arts Homecoming Night

On Oct. 18, the Oak Hall community is joining together for an epic homecoming celebration, complete with Eagle (temporary) tattoos and pompoms! Benefiting the Oak Hall Annual Fund, in turn benefiting Oak Hall students, the Fall for the Arts Homecoming Night extravaganza will transform the traffic circle between the Upper and Middle School into one, large, spirit party.

Prior to the Eagles’ Homecoming football game versus Rocky Bayou Christian, numerous activities will occur from 5-7 p.m., including bounce houses, corn hole, singing with the always amazing Oak Hall musicians, silent auctions, and a spaghetti dinner from Napaletano’s, along with other exciting forms of entertainment. Furthermore, raffle tickets for a chance to win a 2-year lease on a Chevy Equinox (or $15,000 cash) will be sold, with the winning ticket drawn at Eagle Fest.

In addition to the pre-game festivities, the district championship football team from 1979 will be honored at halftime.

“I truly hope this becomes an evening where we all get together to celebrate the Arts, cheer on our football team, and join together as one school to celebrate Oak Hall,” commented James Hutchins, Head of School.

The Oak Hall Annual Fund is a program designed to “benefit every Eagle, every day”. Since tuition doesn’t cover the abundant number of programs offered to the students, professional development for staff and faculty, and enhancements to classrooms, amongst other things, donations are encouraged to cover the operating costs of the aforementioned items.

The Fall for the Arts Homecoming Night is just one of many fundraising opportunities for the school. In fact, for the past three years, 100 percent of the OHS faculty, staff, and board of directors have given support to the fund.

For a complete list of activities, and to purchase tickets for certain activities at Fall for the Arts, please visit http://www.oakhall.org/give/fundraiser or contact Director of Advancement, Rebekah Johnson at rjohnson@oakhall.org.