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 or contact Director of Advancement, Rebekah Johnson at