Elementary, My Dear Oak Hill
School’s out for high school students at the small private Oak Hill School.
The pre-K-12 grade school is closing its high school grades, capping its enrollment at the eighth-grade level. The school’s board made the decision to instead focus on its popular elementary and middle school grades due to lower enrollment in high school grades.
“Our board decided to refocus our mission,” says James Pearson, the school’s director of admissions.
Oak Hill’s Board of Trustees made the decision April 19. The board consists of seven volunteers, some of whom are parents and others grandparents of students there. According to its website, the school has enrollment space for 175 pre-K through eighth-grade students.
The pandemic changed the landscape for high school students, Pearson says. At that age, students are usually driving the conversation about their education, he adds. So rather than attend Oak Hill for high school, some were pursuing online education or going to larger high schools to have a larger social circle.
And the price of tuition has an impact, too, especially as some parents may start using the money saved for college, he says. According to its 2022-23 student tuition and fee schedule, the annual rate for half-day pre-K is $8,000 a year, kindergarten through fifth grade is $18,500 and sixth through eighth grade and high school is $19,900.
Closing the high school is an opportunity to expand its more popular elementary and middle classes, Pearson says.
“Our lower school, which is pre-K through fifth grade, that’s filled. We’ve got a waitlist. It’s busting at the seams,” Pearson says. “We’ll have additional room.”
Pearson says the high school populated seven classrooms on the campus. He says the board will discuss possibly expanding its elementary and middle school classes into those rooms so the school can admit more students. And that may mean hiring more teachers, too, though the school is still in the early stages of developing the blueprint for the new phase.
Even though the school is closing its high school, Pearson says Oak Hill is facing an exciting time, especially as it starts to expand its offerings. The school has a new theater arts building, a technology program and a gym.
Oak Hill School was founded in 1994 by Ed King. He is perhaps better known for establishing King Estate Winery three years before that — and in 2016 he was associated with a controversial proposed quarry near Oakridge that in 2021 the Lane County Board of Commissioners put on hiatus.