Driving along Sunset Boulevard, just past Barrington Avenue in Brentwood, you’ll find The Archer School for Girls, where nearly 500 students in grades six through 12 enter through an iron gate and walk into a majestic hallway with a ceiling decorated like a European museum.
This Spanish Colonial Revival building was finished in 1931 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1989. It was a retirement home until Archer took over the six-acre site in 1998.
“We produce girl power,” Head of School Elizabeth English said.
At lunchtime, amid the refreshing sound of water dripping into an aqua basin from a mosaic fountain in the grassy quad, a remarkable photo is being taken.
Eight sets of sisters play tennis at the school even though there are no tennis courts on campus. The 16 siblings, including three sets of twins, are wearing gray Archer shirts while holding rackets and smiling for the camera. It’s like a revival of the old TV series, “Eight Is Enough.”
“Crazy,” sophomore Amelia Stone said.
“It’s kind of weird,” said the No. 1 singles player, sophomore Lexie Ben-Meir. “It symbolizes Archer as a whole. Everybody is sisters, maybe not biological necessarily but in spirit.”
Coach Paula Feigenbaum lets the older sisters serve as role models for the younger ones.
“The unique part about the tennis program is I start with the middle school and have a seamless transition to high school and recognize all the sisters between the two teams,” she said. “I’ve never seen the drive and determination these girls display. It’s satisfying to see their sense of accomplishment when they win a match.”
On the varsity are the Ben-Meir sisters, Lexie and Naya, who’s a freshman and plays No. 1 doubles; plus Stone and sophomore Olivia Rosen. In the middle school are the Tehranchi sisters, Delara (eighth grade) and Layla (seventh); the Woolenberg sisters, Zoe (eighth) and Ivy (sixth); plus Isabel Stone (eighth grade) and Jessica Rosen (seventh grade).
Then there are the three sets of twins — Uma and Maya Bajaj (eighth grade); Sydney and Emma Frank (eighth grade); and Audrey and Annabelle Chang (seventh grade).
The Changs are so difficult to identify that you need to look at their shoes to see which one is wearing a blue stripe, look at their racket to see whose strings are black or blue and look into their mouths and see which one has light-blue braces as opposed to dark-blue braces.
There are many stereotypes put to shame walking around campus, particularly that girls aren’t interested in science or engineering. A visit to the Saban IDEAlab shows off contraptions and inventions that any boy would gladly take credit for, such as a dancing robot that looks like a gadget from the “Transformer” movies. There’s a 3-D printer and tools used by aspiring engineers.
There’s the Archer Biofeedback Chair, a reclining chair that plays music and uses wireless brain sensors to control a canopy with 600 multicolor LEDs that respond to the users’ levels of meditation. Among the designers were members of the Southern Section championship volleyball team.
Senior tennis player Miayunique South helped develop “Hallwayze,” an electronic device that keeps track of traffic in the Archer hallways.
“This is a room where students from all over can come and create anything their heart desires,” she said.
Tuition is $40,800 plus a $4,100 transportation fee, and most students arrive via 11 bus routes from around the Southland. With no athletic facilities, tennis players travel to a nearby park or use courts at UCLA. Archer is expected to be a Southern Section Division 4 title contender in the years ahead.
Now, if only South, who’s also a top pole vaulter, could help the sisters and herself improve their game by creating something in the Idea Lab.
“I could create a ball machine,” she said. “I could create something that would help with my overhead.”