Area Private Schools Offer a Variety of Educational and Enrichment Experiences
The variety of educational opportunities available for the Greater Gainesville community’s children is one of its most desirable features. Besides the strong public school system in the community, the area boasts a variety of strong private school options, both faith-based and secular.
There are many reasons parents may select a private school for their children’s education. Many parents select faith-based schools due to their religious background or the desire for religion to be included in their child’s education. Beyond that, private schools often have a higher level of parental involvement and the schools often possess a close community feel. They also may have the opportunity to offer more educational and enrichment offerings.
Oak Hall School
Celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, Oak Hall School has been committed to being a welcoming, diverse, and supportive learning community empowering students to pursue their academic, artistic, and athletic passions.
Oak Hall has 744 students from 3-year-old preschool through twelfth grade where small class sizes allow for low student-teacher ratios.
With a 93% retention rate, their students can create strong bonds in the classroom and on the field, track, court, and stage.
Fifty-six percent of Oak Hall’s faculty hold an advanced degree in their field. To further support academic excellence, Oak Hall has dedicated learning specialists in each division (lower, middle, and upper schools).
Oak Hall has a beautiful fine arts gallery displaying student art, and the performing arts program host shows four times a year.
Lower school (elementary) students participate in special area classes including music, art, library, Spanish, PE and technology.
While college counseling officially begins in eighth grade, Oak Hall is a college preparatory school so the path to a bright future begins on day one.
“Our academic programs and enrichment clubs from preschool through the upper school give students guidance toward what they want to do in the future,” said Ashli Wharton, Admission Associate. “Oak Hall has excellent educational programs with a challenging curriculum.”
Beginning in sixth grade, students participate in an advisory program with dedicated faculty and counselors focused on providing social, emotional, and academic support. Students eat lunch with their groups each day, so students have an instant core friend group.
All middle school students participate in the STEM program and can apply to the advanced math and science track. Learning units for Middle School STEM include CAD design, structures and engineering, game theory, coding, food science, woodshop, rocketry, and robotics.
Each upper school student has their own faculty advisor as well as a full-time college counselor. Oak Hall offers SAT and ACT preparation, as well as assistance with preparing college essays. The college counselors help students each step of the way of the college admissions process.
Twenty-six AP courses are also available for upper school students, in addition to the AP Capstone program and the Arts Conservatory Program at the collegiate level with advanced courses in music, visual arts, and theater.
Oak Hall’s reach beyond the classroom is enhanced by several dynamic offerings. Recognized at the local, state, and national level in many cases, their signature programs are led by inspirational faculty and sponsors. They have a nationally award-winning chess program. Beginning in junior kindergarten, students learn how to play chess, which contributes to critical thinking and logical sequencing. Other signature programs at Oak Hall include Speech and Debate, Youth in Government, and Junior Classical League, to name a few.
Students are safe and protected on campus—Oak Hall has a full-time Campus Protection Officer. Gates and exterior doors on campus require a fob for entry. Students go through radKIDS training while faculty, staff, and administration complete ALICE training.
Anyone involved with the school can speak to the close community feel that Oak Hall offers. The core values of scholarship, leadership and service are a focus of an Oak Hall education in every grade and aspect.
“As a mom, the road that Oak Hall is paving for my children is amazing,” said Corinna French, parent and Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Oak Hall.
“The opportunities afforded in terms of academics and character development are unparalleled.”
Queen of Peace Catholic Academy
A part of a vibrant parish community, Queen of Peace Catholic Academy is an educational community in which faculty, staff, and the church community work together to provide students with a strong spiritual, academic, psychological, and social foundation.
Characterized by small class sizes and led by dynamic dedicated educators, the academy addresses the social, emotional, physical, ethical, and creative development of each child in a faith-filled environment.
In the classrooms, students listen and reflect the gospel message and commit themselves to academic excellence as faith is infused in all subject areas. As an enhancement of core subjects, the Academy also offers music, art, Spanish, Chinese, physical education, and media research and technology beginning in Pre-K and continuing through 8th grade as a way to nurture each child’s varying talents and abilities.
“We believe that education is more than just reading, writing and arithmetic,” said Tammie Vassou, principal of Queen of Peace Catholic Academy. “We believe in growing the whole child with the assistance of our entire church community. We are truly blessed to be a part of this entire community that supports our school’s mission.”
Queen of Peace students consistently score above the national and state average on standardized testing. While academics are a strong component of the Academy, Vassou points out that what sets them apart is their strong faith component.
“We view our role as first developing children with strong values and that strong faith component,” Vassou said. “We operate around the premise that ‘it takes a village’ to develop young minds. We are focused on the whole child: spirituality, academics, social and psychological development.”
Outside of the classroom, Queen of Peace has several extracurricular activities including Robotics, Math Club, Lego Club, Art Club, National Junior Honor Society as well as several competitive athletic sports for 5th through 8th grades. Elementary students have the opportunity to participate in community sports leagues in sports like soccer, basketball, football and tennis.
Queen of Peace is proud to announce that they will now begin accepting scholarships for families who want to attend the school but may not have the financial means to do so. The school will accept Step Up For Students scholarships, which are for children from lower-income families and for children with certain special needs. In addition, they are proud to offer scholarships through the Queen of Peace Academy Educational Scholarship Fund.
“We believe that a Catholic education should be available for any family who seeks to provide it for their children,” Vassou said. “We are blessed and happy to be able to provide financial resources for those who require them.”
Each year the church community chooses a unified theme in which both the school and the parish enforce the message in everything we do. This year’s theme, “Together, We Have Hope” signifies how the Academy and the entire community can get through any challenge together.
“With everything going on in the world, we live our lives in faith and support of our church community. The bonds of our community are what sets us apart,” Vassou said.
St. Francis Catholic Academy
Founded in 2004 and serving high school students from nine different counties, Saint Francis has a rich heritage built on faith, service, and the highest standards of academic excellence.
Saint Francis Catholic Academy strives to create an environment where students can succeed and grow spiritually, intellectually and athletically so that they can better serve the world as adults. With over 200 students enrolled, Saint Francis’ approach to education is to teach students how to think and create the future.
“Academics and morals are the most important tenets of our students’ experience,” said Jason Acosta, principal of St. Francis Catholic Academy. “A faith-based education is a big part of our students’ lives.”
Committed to the religious education of the whole person, Saint Francis helps each student develop a Christian social conscience through their educational and service programs. Students are required to complete at least 25 hours of community service annually, and campus staff works with student groups to identify service projects.
Saint Francis Catholic Academy has a college preparatory curriculum. Saint Francis Catholic Academy is proud to be an AP Capstone School. AP Capstone is a College Board Program that equips students with skills in independent research, collaborative teamwork, and communication that are increasingly valued by colleges. In addition to taking five AP courses, students complete a practicum and research course, giving them advanced preparation for meaningful college preparation.
Saint Francis offers a variety of AP courses in math, English, and sciences as well as courses like AP Studio Art and Engineering. The school also has 100 percent graduation and college acceptance rates with students being accepted at Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), UF, and Duke University.
Over half of the school’s faculty hold a master’s degree or higher with 17 percent holding a Ph.D. degree. The student-teacher ratio is 11 to 1. The school was named among the top 8 percent of high schools nationally in excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), ranked by Newsweek.
“Saint Francis is honored by this amazing recognition,” Acosta said. “Our teachers and students are constantly challenging each other to keep moving forward with new initiatives that will equip our students with the skills they need for the occupations of tomorrow. This award is proof that our collaborations are successful.”
St. Francis recently acquired an Anatomage table with a gift from a private donor. The table is the most technologically advanced 3D anatomy visualization system for anatomy and physiology education used by many of the world’s leading medical schools and institutions. It allows students to observe both human and animal cadavers, become familiar with medical vocabulary, and gain real-world practice.
Besides academics, Saint Francis is invested in other types of learning experiences for students such as band, choir and arts programs, Spanish, Latin and Math clubs, anime, drama clubs, among many others. “If students have an interest, we can make it happen,” Acosta said.
Saint Francis offers 16 varsity sports, including basketball, football, golf, soccer, and track and field. In addition, the Wolfbotics team advanced to the world championship in 2018 and 2019.
Students have at least one guidance appointment per year, which addresses both emotional issues as well as helping prepare students for college. Saint Francis hosts a College Night to help get students and parents ready for college, including navigating the financial aid process. Saint Francis accepts Step Up for Students, McKay and AAA scholarships and also has a private scholarship fund.
Saint Francis regularly hosts guest speakers who are experts in their fields to give students real-world advice.
“As a school, we will do whatever we can to help our students get to where they need to be. We listen to our students, we listen to our community, and we figure out how to get them there. We are constantly surveying the environment to understand how to best prepare our students for today and tomorrow’s world,” Acosta said.