The Thacher School is a co-ed boarding school
for grades 9-12 in Ojai, California
, about two hours north of Los Angeles
. It is also known by the Spanish
name Casa de Piedra, meaning House of Stone.
With a student body
of around 210 boarders and 20 day students, the school is small enough for everyone to know everyone else. 39% of students are from out-of-state, 10% are international students, and the rest are from California. 29% receive financial aid
. 40% of students previously attended public school
s, and 60% private
. Admission is very selective.
s are very important at Thacher, but so are many other things. The most notable priority aside from classes is the horse program. As Sherman Day Thacher (who founded the school in 1889) was fond of saying, "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a boy." (The school did not go co-ed until 1977
.) This slogan
has not been forgotten; all incoming freshmen
are required to care for and ride a horse
, of which the on-campus barn
has about 160. Thacher's horse department employs full- and part-time faculty
members. After students ride for their entire first year, they can continue to do so if they want; the other option is to play a sport
. Even those die-hard
riders must participate in a team sport at some point during their four years. (Lacrosse
is especially popular; the girls' varsity team is often the #1 girls' high school
team in California
, on the other hand, has only existed as a sport at Thacher since 2003.) Also, camping
is required in six-day chunks twice a year -- generally either backpacking
or horsepacking (in which a horse, rather than a human, carries the gear), with the occasional kayaking
Anyone caring for a horse must feed it and muck the stall before 8 AM on weekdays and Saturdays and 9 AM on Sundays. Breakfast check-in is required for all students except senior
s. The "Teacher On Active Duty," aka
"TOAD," checks off each student's name when he enters the dining hall. (Not coincidentally, the school mascot
is the toad.) All sophomores and juniors have a "morning job," which often consists of cleaning a classroom before the start of the schoolday. Classes begin at 8 AM and end at 3:05 PM, but students almost always have a few free periods during the day.
One time slot that everyone has free is the assembly
period every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:30. The entire school is required to attend; assembly is held outdoors unless the weather is bad. On Mondays, the TOAD gives a speech on whatever topic s/he desires. Other than that, assembly is unplanned, completely open to announcements by anybody (including students).
After classes end, sports begin. 3:30-5 PM is the official period; following that, all rush back to their dorm
s to shower
and dress for formal dinner. "Formal" takes place on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings at 6:00 sharp. Each table in the dining hall has one or two faculty members permanently assigned to it, and the group of eight students at each table changes approximately every two weeks. Following formal dinner, there is occasionally a speaker, sometimes optional and sometimes not; you'll know an event is required if you're told it is a "headmaster
's invitation." If there are no after-dinner events, then students are free of obligations until 7:30. During study hall
, from 7:30-9:30 PM, freshmen and sophomore
s are required to be in their own rooms (presumably doing homework) unless they've received permission, from the teacher on duty
in the dorm that night, to study elsewhere. Upperclassmen are allowed to study wherever they please, but quiet is expected around campus
The nightly "social
hour" is only, in fact, half an hour long, from 9:30-10. The student union
building (SUB) is a common destination, either for a student-run "snack bar" or just to play pool and buy snacks from vending machines
. This is also the time when couple
s wander off into the shadows.
10 PM on weeknights, 10:30 on Fridays, and 11 on Saturdays marks check-in. Every student must be in his or her room when the prefect
knocks. No students except seniors are allowed to leave the dorm again after check-in until five the next morning. Seniors are permitted to "wander" around campus until a later time.
Some cool things
Every Saturday night, the headmaster and his wife open their home to all students. Popular activities include playing foosball
, watching movie
s, and especially baking cookie
Thacher's Thanksgiving vacation
is a week long, its winter
vacation three weeks, and its spring
break two. Classes do not take a break for national holidays
, but there are generally two more-or-less random holidays every year. Though the administration picks the dates, and sometimes they are arbitrary, there are specific things that can cause a holiday: the birth of a baby to a faculty member or enough snow
on the Pergola
(at the center of campus) to make a snowball
. I have been informed that the latter has not occurred since the 1960s
. Announcements of faculty pregnancies, however, seem to happen at assemblies every year.
Thacher's website is at http://www.thacher.org.