Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Click here to see pictures from graduation, the awards ceremony, and events throughout the year.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Dear Parents, Alumni, and Friends:
Our resident students, faculty, and horses safely evacuated from the Upper Campus last night in advance of the approaching Thomas Fire. There have been no injuries and our students are safely housed at the Lower Campus, which is not under threat from the fire.
It is with a heavy heart, however, that I inform you that our Upper Campus has been severely damaged in this devastating fire. Both the Lucila Arango Science and Technology Center and the Grace Hobson Smith girls’ dormitory were destroyed.
Fire crews were able to save Wallace Burr Hall and the boys’ dormitories, as well as the stables and art building.
In the spirit that has long guided Ojai Valley School, we are confident that we will recover, rebuild, and become stronger as a school and a community.
We are strategizing now about how we will complete the school year for Upper Campus. Please know we will continue to keep you informed as more details become available, including campus-specific instructions about how we will close the semester.
For now, we ask for your patience and your support – especially for our students, faculty, and resident staff as they grapple with this tremendous loss.
We are in close contact with fire personnel and have been advised to continue sheltering residents at Lower Campus as the danger to our immediate location has passed. Due to the poor air quality, and the desire to minimize the affects of road closure, we will cancel school tomorrow. It is our hope that we will be able to open school for Lower students on Thursday, but we will send another email tomorrow when we know more about the condition of the valley.
We hope you and your family are safe and secure.
Michael J. Hall-Mounsey
Ojai Valley School
The OVS Equestrian staff began evacuating horses from the Upper Campus just as the Thomas Fire started in the nearby community of Santa Paula. All were safely evacuated. Some are now being sheltered at the Lower Campus, and 38 others have been relocated to three ranches in Santa Ynez.
“They are all out in the open with plenty of room to move and fresh air to breath,” said Equestrian Director Stephanie Gustafson, who is staying in Santa Ynez with the horses, two other OVS equestrian instructors, and her daughter, Emma, a current senior at the Upper Campus. “I feel so blessed to have been provided this sanctuary by people who love OVS as we do. As Emma said when we looked at the damage to Upper, ‘it’s okay mom, OVS is more than just buildings.”
In honor of banned books week, middle school teacher Marsha Hoem discusses how students in her classes explore concepts of utopia, conflict, and freedom in the language arts curriculum
By Marsha Hoem
Many of the books we read in seventh and eighth grade are also, coincidentally, on lists of the most frequently challenged or banned books in this country. I didn’t load the curriculum this way intentionally, really, except that I was looking for well-written and provocative books for middle schoolers, and many that fit my criteria have also been lightening rods for the First Amendment.
Eighth graders are currently reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, so they spent a couple of weeks beforehand researching the concept of utopias before diving in. It’s an idea that has shaped American literature from its beginnings – from John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” sermon to the persistence of “The American Dream.” So we consider the full range of its influence – in painting, history, poetry, children’s literature, and so on, and then we try to boil it down to the question “Is it possible?” Or, was Plato right when he said that a utopia might only ever exist “as the structure of a just man’s mind”?
In answer to Plato, this class wrote:
“I agree with him because there will always be conflict, and there will always be people who have different views on the world…without conflict and problems, we as humans [would] lack a purpose in life because we wouldn’t have things to learn from.” ~ Leila Duarte
And: “I think that a truly equal utopia will never be accomplished…We need people with differences to help us, in a way, to have new, more innovative thoughts…If we didn’t argue, we wouldn’t have that much passion, since we would have nothing to feel passionate about, and without passion, we would not have the will to progress.” ~ Charlotte Sedlak
They get it.
Many of the books in our curriculum tend to question society as it is or as it might be: Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, Night, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men... though we read plenty that is not so dark to balance things out. The rationale for reading these works is validated for me every year when students see that the ideas of uniformity and perfection that are the inspiration for most utopias, easily flip into autocracy, propaganda, and loss of freedom in all realms because human beings are hard wired for change and to see things differently.
The history of banned books inevitably generates questions in the classroom as students see that trying to control the human instinct to question things as they are is almost always futile. Differences of opinion and of personality – this is what makes things interesting and beautiful. Fahrenheit 451 is the perfect book for introducing these ideas, first, because Bradbury was such a large-hearted poet – full of love and truth, and secondly, because what he writes is so rich and layered with riddles, questions, allusions. When they see the place he was writing from – love of mankind, of books, of the texture and quality of life – set against the apprehension of what could happen in a totalitarian, technological state – something connects. The fact that Fahrenheit 451 is an extended ode to love, language, and nature resonates, and so knowing it was verboten reading makes the light switch go on. Why is knowledge considered dangerous? If conflict is a constant, how do we deal with it? Is conflict necessary for a healthy society? These are the things we wrestle with in room 27 – the “big fish” questions. …
October 28 – As we conclude the first quarter of the academic year, we want to thank our students and parents for joining us during fall Family Weekend. We hope you were able to conference with teachers about your student’s individual progress in the first quarter of the school year and enjoy time with other OVS parents as part of our evening events. It was, from our perspective, a wonderful weekend in which our middle and high school families came together for a community dinner at the Upper Campus on Friday night, followed by musical performances, and a full line-up of Saturday events.
On both campuses, we celebrated student achievements in academics, equestrian, athletics, and fine and performing arts. Our elementary and primary students took center stage for our own production of The Boulevard of Broken Megapixels. Thank you to Mr. Andy Street for pulling together yet another wonderful performance that showcased the talents of our youngest students.
In the coming week, our 8th graders will travel to Washington D.C. for an exploration of United States history. Half the senior class will submit college applications for their top choice schools through early action and early decision admissions. And our cross team teams will head to the league championships in hopes of earning a CIF berth.
Check out the website calendar for detailed information about other campus events, outdoor trips, and more. Please see pictures from Family Weekend on the OVS website; more will be added next week from the elementary play.
The people make the place. Just ask our alumni. They will tell you it was the close-knit community of students and dedicated teachers who made their OVS experience great. We agree. Meet the faculty and learn more about their backgrounds, interests and favorite experiences at Ojai Valley School.
Join us for the ultimate movie night! On Saturday, September 23, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy is teaming up with Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour to bring the original films and the experience of the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival to the Ojai community at Ojai Valley School. Bring blankets and low-back chairs to stake out your spot on the Lower Campus athletic field. There will be live music, food trucks, and a beer garden. The evening is sponsored by Patagonia.
This is a fabulous community event now in its third year at Ojai Valley School. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. Films start at 7:15 p.m. Parking is generously provided across the street by the Ojai Valley Inn.
Tickets are $25 at the door. Tickets for children under 12 are $10. Purchase them in advance at https://ovlc.org/mountainfilm-tour-2017/. Online ticket sales end Saturday, September 23, at 11:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Ojai Valley Land Conservancy
Ojai Valley School launches the 2017-18 school year in September, welcoming 288 new and returning students to its two campuses in Ojai! The beginning of the year includes a full calendar of academics, outdoor education trips, the start of fall sports, college counseling, and much more. Visit the calendar to learn more
March 9 – The spring sports season is in full swing! Baseball will open its season next Wednesday, March 14, with a non-league home game against Villanova and then host the league opener on Friday, March 17, versus Hillcrest Christian of Thousand Oaks. This season, baseball is competing in the Omega League, which will mean new opponents that we have not previously played. The OVS squad is young and looking to build on last season’s successes. Please come out and the support the Spuds and enjoy Baseball Bingo at all home games!
Golf season will tee off with a home match versus Trinity Classical Academy on Tuesday, March 21, at Soule Park Golf Course and then play an away match against Villanova on Thursday March 23, at Soule Park. Golf is competing in the Heritage League this season and will also play local high schools in non-league matches. The Spud golfers are eager to get on the course.
In addition to competitive baseball and golf, OVS offers as spring sports lacrosse, equestrian, and tennis. Check the website calendar for game dates and times.
By Lee Roberts, Sixth-Grade Language Arts Teacher
March 9 – Last week, 80 young soldiers donned armor, carried shields, shot arrows, and galloped steeds in a battle for the British Isles. Like the original battle, William, the Duke of Normandy, led his army—in this case, the entire sixth and seventh grades—to victory over King Harold II, the last Anglo Saxon King of England, and his eighth-grade defenders. However, unlike the 1066 combatants who crafted their crests, armor and weapons from chain mail and beaten metal, these local soldiers wrought their armaments from cardboard cadged from Ojai Valley shops and donated by local families. While the field of soldiers kneeled, the entire Lower school looked on while Head of School Gary Gartrell, standing in for the Archbishop of York, crowned seventh grader Violet Ruby as King William the Conqueror of England.
For the eighth consecutive year, OVS history teacher John Rowan orchestrated what has become a fond tradition among participants and alumni. Math teacher Doug Colborn said his children, Nolan and Avery, who are now enrolled at the Upper Campus, participated as middle school students. Colborn described the importance of lasting memories like these. His children, and all who join in the fray, “will never, ever forget the Battle of Hastings.” Gartrell said the Battle of Hastings has become part of the fabric of OVS. “It connects generations of OVS students,” he said, adding that the elementary students watch every move of the cardboard wearing soldiers in anticipation of their own battles. “They can’t wait.”
One of the reasons this school-wide event works so well, according to Gartrell, is the level of the middle school-aged children’s willingness to participate in an imaginary event en masse. “At this age, they buy into it 100 percent,” he said. Amateur historian Tigran Nahabedian, a sixth-grade Norman archer, said, “It’s a fast-paced historical lesson for the whole school.” Even the smallest children have a vested interest.
At dinner following the battle, John Rowan’s daughter Clementine, in second grade, mused on the fact that William and the Normans had won again, saying, “I thought the Saxons would win, since the Normans won the last few times, Dad.”
The cardboard-rich reenactment began as a way to make an abstract historical event real to children nearly a thousand years after the fact. Using the Bayeux Tapestry as a guide, Rowan’s students follow the strategy. The archers’ volley—in the OVS version, paper folded into wings, launched from oversized rubber bands—starts the battle. The Saxon’s resist, their lines break; the sixth-grade Norman cavalry encircle the disconnected foot soldiers, galloping pretend warhorses in formation; and the Norman Knights finish the fight victorious. Ojai Valley School’s entire middle school plays a part, according to Rowan, even acting out a metaphor for the students’ progression on to high school. The soon-to-be graduated eighth-grade thanes fruitlessly defend the Eighth Grade Lawn against the seventh-grade Norman knights, and the sixth-grade cavalry and archers fulfill the Norman’s strategy.
Next winter, as the pile of Christmas cardboard at the ends of Ojai driveways disappears, residents might know where it will find a second life, before eventual, inevitable recycling.
To view photos from the event, visit the website Images of OVS gallery.