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Five Historical Facts about Boarding Schools

Boarding schools are pretty old and have been around for over a thousand years! Over all that time, some pretty cool facts have popped up. Here are five of them...

The Oldest Boarding School

In England, the oldest boarding school dates back even further. The King’s School in Canterbury was founded in 597 AD by St. Augustine. The famous playwright Christopher Marlowe, author of Dr. Faustus, was a student there. Cheshire Academy was founded in 1794, making it one of the few boarding schools in America to be founded in the 18th century.


Many of the oldest boarding schools were founded by religious leaders in prominent churches. In part, this is because education was widely seen as a falling in the realm of the church, as books and philosophy centered on religious discourse at that period. Cheshire Academy was originally founded as the Episcopal Academy before becoming a non-denominational center for learning in the late 1800s.

Dorm Parents

Boarding schools feature faculty who live on campus, sometimes right next door to their students. These faculty are called “dorm parents” and host movie nights, special dinners, or baking parties. Dorm parents help create a home away from home, and are an integral part of the boarding school experience. While in modern times dorms are set up to have separate but attached faculty housing, in the early days of boarding schools dorm parents actually lived in a house on campus with students living in separate rooms. The house would share the living spaces like the kitchen and bathrooms. As recently as the 1960s students lived in houses with dorm parents at Cheshire Academy; the Phillips House had former faculty Bob Gardiner as the House Head.

The Importance of Education

As early as 1642, towns in New England were required to open schools to the public. By the 1780s, many of these early public schools had been converted to private schools. By the early 1800s the extensive network of private and boarding schools in New England was much as it is today. However, the south was a bit different: There were fewer publically funded schools, so many wealthy southern parents hired tutors or sent their children to boarding school, making boarding schools a popular option for the south in the 1600s.

Supreme Court Rulings

By 1870, every state had free elementary schools, and by 1900, 34 states required all children to attend school. The federal government began to see public schools as a tool to promote nationalism, and as such, Oregon passed a law that would require all students to attend public school, regardless of whether or not they were attending private school. Several Catholic nuns and educators in Oregon private schools sued the governor, alleging that the law violated parents’ freedom of religion. The Supreme Court heard the case in March of 1925, ruling in favor of the nuns.

In 2015, the boarding school landscape is in some ways very similar, and yet there have been many changes. Right now there are 20,861 private schools in the United States with a variety of special traits: Coed, all boys, all girls, religious, non-denominational, boarding day, and more! Cheshire Academy is a co-ed, non denominational boarding and day school-- check us out if you want to learn more.

Caitlin Garzi

Written by Caitlin Garzi

Caitlin Garzi is the Assoc. Dir. Of Digital Marketing for Cheshire Academy. She works with CAScratchUp bloggers and maintains the look and feel of the blog.

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