Dunn School is located on a 55-acre campus among the ranches and wineries of northern Santa Barbara County, in the town of Los Olivos (pronounced ‘oh-LEE-vohs’), California.
Originally inhabited by the Chumash Indians, the Santa Ynez Valley (pop. 20,000) is a picturesque area partially surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, with the Pacific Ocean a short drive away. The city of Santa Barbara (pop. 91,000) is 30 miles to the southeast. Los Angeles is a two-hour drive south, and San Francisco is five hours north.
Santa Barbara County has much to offer students who live at Dunn. They can take advantage of the vast natural resources in the area — from surfing, swimming and relaxing on the beaches just a short drive down Highway 101, or hiking, biking and climbing in the mountains just a few miles up the road. They also have the cultural and commercial resources — movies, music, museums, theaters, shopping — of Santa Barbara to the south, and Santa Maria (pop. 100,000) to the north.
Campus & Facilities
Dunn’s campus retains the rural identity and country charm of the Valley, with our ranch-style buildings that open to the outdoors, athletic fields with mountain views, and outdoor meeting spaces under the massive Red Oaks that characterize California’s central coast. Learning takes place everywhere on campus, which supports and encourages Dunn’s decidedly collaborative, hands-on, friendly and open-minded culture of learning and living.
Dunn’s buildings and grounds are outfitted for contemporary learning and living experiences.
Middle School: The Middle School motto is Carpe Diem —“Seize the Day”— which is evident when you first step foot on the eclectic campus. When you do, you’ll see the student-tended gardens, a giant outdoor chess board, an Aztec pyramid, live chickens (in their coop, of course), and a massive rope swing under the big Oak tree out front. Middle schoolers enjoy their own space on campus, largely secluded from the Upper School, with sprawling decks, grassy courtyards and homey, sun-filled classrooms — there’s no doubt about it, it’s a magical place for learning.
Upper School: The Upper School campus blends the charm of the California countryside with modern needs of contemporary, college preparatory learning. Classrooms are designed for small, seminar-style classes and are appointed with learning technology appropriate to our teaching styles. Students gather for assemblies on wooden benches each week and eat on picnic tables under an oak grove at the center of campus. A modern library provides a quiet study space, day and night, and the College Counseling center offers a place to research colleges and work on applications.
Dormitories: Residential students live in attractive, well maintained dorms that include housing for resident faculty families — complete with kids, pets and all the bustle of daily life. Each dorm includes for student use: a full kitchen, comfortable lounge with fireplace and TV, Wi-Fi access (available during age-appropriate hours), laundry facilities, cleaning supplies and multiple patios. Students (with faculty supervision) are required to clean their rooms each evening and keep the common areas tidy and sanitary. The dorms also organize programming to foster community and responsibility, which we consider part of our whole student approach to learning and living.
Dunn Kitchen: Dunn’s dining hall is not run by your average lunch lady. Chef Robin Reynolds leads Dunn’s food service, serving three hot meals and two snacks per day for the Upper School Dining Hall and Middle School lunches. Foods are prepared from whole fresh ingredients, limiting the use of processed foods and avoiding products containing artificial flavorings, M.S.G., preservatives and high levels of sodium. Local farmers practicing sustainable farming methods are utilized whenever possible. Menus are also created with the cultural and dietary preferences of our diverse international community in mind, and vegan and vegetarian offerings are always available. What’s more, the facility earned a 3-Star Green Restaurant rating — the only one in Santa Barbara County! — that recognizes excellence in such areas as water efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable food practices, energy use, and chemical and pollution reduction.
Art & Music: The Sinclaire Art Studios feature a painting studio, ceramics studio with an outdoor kiln, and a multimedia classroom for digital photography and film-making students. Designed to take advantage of natural light as well as new technology, the Studio is the perfect place for all students to explore hidden talents and for budding artists to get the foundations they need for lifelong expression.
Our music facility is an old one-room school house donated to the school by the Firestone family. The open space inside makes for a perfect place to learn the basics of music theory, how to play different instruments, and jam with friends and faculty. Walk by any time of the day or evening and you’ll hear students working on their craft.
RAD Lab: This makerspace is designed for a 9th grade “Research and Development” class that is a problem- and project-based approach to scientific fundamentals. Students engage in coding, robotics, woodcraft, applied physics, and related activities to learn the principles of science and engineering.
Athletic Facilities: The California sunshine and local mountains are the perfect setting for year-round outdoor sports and activities. Students in all grades enjoy using six tennis courts, four athletic fields, a heated swimming pool, full gymnasium, volleyball courts (one indoor, two outdoor), basketball courts (indoor and outdoor), rock-climbing wall, bouldering facility, cardio room, weightlifting room, cross-training facility, and a jogging track around campus. We also boast the premier baseball field and training facility in the region, completely rebuilt and opened in 2015.
Earwig Café: Founded and run by students, the Earwig Café is more than just a cool place to study with friends or get a snack. Student employees learn how to run a business, and all profits are invested by students and used to fund a student scholarship.
Dunn is my second home, because everyone at this school is nice, encouraging and passionate. I feel like we're one family in a community.