Imagine Ojai Valley School without Jack the Cat, our school’s beloved orange and white tabby, on campus every single day. It’s impossible. He has become such an important part of the campus for students that school wouldn’t be the same without him.
Up on the hill that holds the Upper Campus, students are quite used to seeing different types of animals. While there are plenty of wild animals, there are also the horses in the barn and the dorm parents’ dogs that act as pets for the students.
However, Jack has incorporated himself into the daily life of Ojai Valley School and has become an important part of the lives of the students studying and living here.
Jack has been on the campus since 2007, and he has had the whole campus as his playground. He belongs to Head of School Craig Floyd, and his wife Michele, who is elementary division coordinator at Lower Campus. The Floyds brought Jack to Upper when they moved here for the first time in 2007.
But while the Floyds are Jack’s “owners,” the truth is he doesn’t belong to any one person.
In fact, most of the time he can be found in the classroom of OVS’s Core Program teacher Kirste Williams or wandering outside the classrooms in the courtyard, meowing at students for treats and pets.
While Jack constantly enjoys having students around, the students love having Jack around just as much.
“A lot of the students always come into the Learning Center to say ‘hi’ to Jack,” Mrs. Williams said. “Even if they aren’t in learning center, they always find having a cat around calming and nice.”
Jack isn’t just an adorable cat, his presence in the Learning Center helps students do their work. Students who use Room 4 for tests, SATs, or class seek comfort and stress relief from Jack’s presence.
Junior Conway Gilbreth, who’s been in learning center for the past three years, says just having an animal around helps him feel more relaxed.
“Animals really help people with stress,” Conway said. “Just being there and having an animal’s affection is very important for students.”
All the students at OVS care about Jack, but that was never more evident than during the Thomas Fire. One student even went out of his way to make sure Jack was able to get off campus as the fire approached.
On December 4, junior Lico Chen was at the Upper Campus when the fire forced students to evacuate. When he saw Jack walking the hallways, Lico scooped him up and carried him to the headmaster’s house.
“When Mr. Floyd said we needed to bring him to his house, I picked Jack up and brought him there,” explained Lico. “I never handled a cat before, but Mrs. Barkan [OVS Weekend Coordinator] was there and she talked me through what to do.”
While all the students were away from the Upper Campus, many started expressing their concerns to Mr. Floyd about Jack the Cat. Just a few days after the fire, Mr. Floyd posted onto the school’s Instagram confirmation that Jack was safe and missed the students. The students love for Jack was truly evident through the worries they expressed for him and the happy comments of relief they wrote in reply to the post.
When the students returned from the fire, part of Jack’s home had been destroyed with it. The Floyd house is no longer in use, and Jack now lives off-campus.
But that didn’t stop Jack from coming back to OVS.
However, now he has transitions to being a day student, with Mr. Floyd packing him up in a pet carrier and bringing him up to the campus everyday so he can spend his time hanging with students, sleeping on the library couches or roaming the campus on the hunt for small game.
Indeed, Jack the Cat is so much a part of what happens day-to-day at the Upper Campus that one day, when Mr. Floyd couldn’t bring Jack to school, he rode the day student bus instead, with one of the students given the task of getting him to Upper.
Jack has become the pet of 120 students, faculty, and alumni. From students who have never had a pet to students who miss their own at home, Jack has become every student’s cat, and every student cares about him deeply.
“After I heard Jack was safe from the Thomas Fire I was relieved,” Conway said. “He’s always here. It’d be hard to imagine life at OVS without Jack.”Share