The Hartsbrook School

History of The Hartsbrook School

The Hartsbrook School was founded in 1981 in South Amherst by a group of parents and supporters of the Waldorf education movement. Located in a house on the property of a biodynamic farm, the fledgling institution included one teacher and a handful of kindergarteners. Over the next two years, the program gradually expanded and a small first grade was started. In 1984, the school acquired the Ben Smith Tavern and moved to Hadley, Massachusetts.

In 1987, the 19-acre main campus at 193 Bay Road was purchased and, in 1988, construction of the first classroom building at this location began. This building was named Piening Hall in honor of Ekkehard Piening who joined the school in 1985 and was instrumental in helping this fledgling school take wing. Mr. Piening died at the age of 48 on Christmas Day in 1989 due to cancer, only months after the building was completed. Although his untimely death was a blow to the community, the school continued to grow and flourish borne aloft by his inspiration. The school added a grade each year and graduated its first eighth grade class in 1993.

Property adjacent to the site, purchased in 1997, included the original Hartsbrook School, a one-room schoolhouse dating back to the early 1900s. Renovations transformed the site into the Homestead which today is the home of our Early Childhood program. A second Early Childhood classroom building with modern energy-efficient features was built adjacent to the Homestead in 2014 to accommodate our growing programs.

From the beginning, the founders of Hartsbrook intended for the school to offer a full program through twelfth grade. In September 2002, the Hartsbrook High School opened with 19 ninth graders. Hartsbrook graduated its first senior class in June 2006.

With the addition of the high school and the great desire to bring all of the elementary grades under one roof, construction commenced in 2005 on a new building to house first through eighth grades on the main campus. In November 2006, Hartsbrook Hall was opened as the new elementary school. In 2011, the Ben Smith tavern was sold and all classes moved to the main campus.

In 2012, Hartsbrook School co-founders Olivia and Alexander Dreier transferred 33 acres of land abutting the school, creating a special place to expand opportunities for agricultural education and land stewardship. These acres are protected with an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) ensuring that this vital farmland will serve as the foundation of our community in perpetuity.

Today, the Hartsbrook School continues to thrive enrolling over 260 students from early childhood through grade twelve at our campus in Hadley. Our 54-acre campus, with pastoral views of farmland, woodlands, streams, and the Seven Sisters hills of the Holyoke Range, enhances and deepens our students’ daily experiences. We integrate the vibrant cultural and intellectual life of the Five College area with a strong commitment to living sustainably and in community here in western Massachusetts.

The inspiration of our founding teachers continue to guide the direction of our school today. We take our mission seriously – our faculty and staff are “dedicated to nurturing the unique spirit of each child. Our program from early childhood through the high school integrates academic, artistic and practical work to awaken clarity of thought, warmth of heart, and strength of purpose. Through joy in learning, kinship with nature, and working in community we prepare students to meet the challenges of the future and to find purpose and direction in their lives.”