Franklin County is well-known for spectacular fall foliage, historic villages, an abundance of natural resources, and indeed, its number of independent schools. Ideally located in the upper Connecticut River Valley, Franklin County shares a border to the north with Vermont and New Hampshire. On its southern border you’ll find a consortium of five colleges, Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, Smith and University of Massachusetts Amherst. The proximity to two major airports in addition to Amtrak, makes the area very accessible and a highly desirable location to live, work and go to school. The options are vast and the region is a destination for families from all over the world that seek high quality educational opportunities.
Two schools located on Main Street in Old Deerfield, one of New England’s most historic villages, offer traditional day and boarding programs for students from around the globe. The Bement School serves students K-9 in a nurturing and close-knit community setting. Local day students are enriched by the cultural diversity that students from around the world bring to school life. A number of their programs take full advantage of the resources and natural beauty of the village. Deerfield Academy, founded in 1797, is one of the oldest boarding schools in the country. Grades 9-12 and a Post Graduate year are offered, with expansive college preparatory courses, including an Advanced Placement curriculum. The Experimentory at Deerfield Academy, the school’s summer program, offers current sixth and seventh graders an opportunity to “sample Deerfield.” At Deerfield, extracurricular offerings abound and all students are encouraged to participate in interscholastic sports and other activities that enhance their overall experience. Day students often have the best of both worlds because they have access to everything on campus, yet have the comforts of home at night.
Eaglebrook School, just a short distance from Bement and Deerfield, was originally the site for a hunting lodge on 27 acres in the hills of western Massachusetts in 1922. Currently, Eaglebrook offers a traditional junior boarding and day school experience for 250+ boys in grades 6-9. Boys from around the world have a plethora of opportunities to explore academics, the arts, and athletics in a comfortable and safe environment - both indoors and out. Taking advantage of the natural landscape, the campus is now 500+ acres and has its own ski area.
Franklin County has a number of other schools which give students of all ages unparalleled educational opportunities. From the YMCA to Giving Tree School in Gill, preschool choices provide quality programs for early learning and discovery. In addition to a preschool program, The Center School in Greenfield is a progressive day school that serves families from grades PK-8. The school’s curriculum fosters an environment where students are encouraged to be independent, resourceful and deep thinkers. The school is a responsive learning environment offering a balance of rigorous curriculum and creative exploration that celebrates the individual child.
Stoneleigh-Burnham School, conveniently located in Greenfield and very accessible by major highways, is home to a full equestrian center and beautiful horses grazing in wide open fields. Stoneleigh-Burnham is the only secondary school in the U.S. to offer British Horse Society Certification which is a distinctive recognition. Additionally, SBS is the only school in the area to offer an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Stoneleigh enrolls girls in grades 7-12, and Post Graduate. For a small school, international students represent approximately 38% of their student body, again offering local students a very culturally diverse school community.
A pleasant ride on the Mohawk Trail through forests, orchards and meadows along the Deerfield River, The Academy at Charlemont was founded in 1981 as an independent co-educational day school for grades 6-12 and Post Graduate. The school’s small community prides itself on its Honor Code which is central to their values. The Academy’s programs are available to students from the towns of western Massachusetts, southern Vermont, and to a small number of students from other countries and areas of the United States.
One of the most westerly regions of the county is referred to as the Hilltowns. Best known for its artisans, scenic byways, rich culture and quality of life, the area is home to Sanderson Academy a small rural public K-6 elementary school serving students from the towns of Ashfield and Plainfield. Using a Responsive Classroom approach to teaching, Sanderson’s engaged classrooms offer challenging academics that encourage participation and collaboration. Sanderson has a long-standing exchange program that provides a rich cultural learning and home stay experience for sixth graders in Mexico City.
Located just 20 minutes from the Vermont border, Northfield Mount Hermon School was founded by D.L. Moody, a well-known Christian evangelist of the 19th century. Today, NMH offers a well-balanced, multi-dimensional living and learning experience for 650 day and boarding students. NMH is situated on 1,500 stunning acres of woods, farmland and on the fertile banks of the Connecticut River – home to their soon-to-be constructed boat house for the crew program. In addition to a very strong college preparatory curriculum, all students participate in a work program that instills a strong sense of community and provides hands-on learning opportunities.
There is a wealth of exceptional educational opportunities and hidden treasures in Franklin County. In addition to all the independent offerings, there are quality public schools in most towns. From PK-12, our public schools educate students to meet the challenges and demands of a changing world. The area is home to one of the state’s best community colleges, GCC. For many local residents, Greenfield Community College provides a pathway to higher education at an affordable cost. Known for its caring and supportive environment, the college offers a range of courses for both credit and enrichment. GCC works closely with other bachelor degree granting colleges, including University of Massachusetts, to offer diverse transfer options to students.
The University of Massachusetts is a five-campus public research system renowned for its overall academic excellence. UMASS Amherst is the State’s flagship campus and home to 30,000+ undergraduate and graduate students. The institution is comprised of nine schools and colleges and students can take advantage of courses through the Five College consortium. The Fine Arts Center brings nationally known music, theater, and dance to campus while the Mullins Center is the region’s multi-purpose sports and entertainment center. Higher education is a top priority for the Commonwealth and residents can take advantage of endless possibilities at an affordable cost.
As a parent, professional or student, you don’t have to travel far to take advantage of the amazing choices for education and lifelong learning possibilities in Franklin County. Our area is fortunate to have vibrant communities which support the breadth and depth of educational options for residents and to attract families throughout the United States and the world. Education is essential for strong communities, growing businesses, and quality of life. We are fortunate to have that all in our back yard.
Written by: Martha Seretta