Eagle Hill School is a boarding school for grades 8 to 12 or, in Bermuda, Year 9 to the final year of International Baccalaureate or AP. Situated in the verdant hills of Massachusetts, the school offers specialised education for students “who had trouble learning in traditional settings,” according to Susan Cranford, director of enrolment at Eagle Hill School. This extends to students with dyslexia, ADHD, poor executive function skills and learning divergence. The school does not support children with significant emotional, behavioural or social difficulties.

Founded in 1967, Eagle Hill School was established by a group of educators who saw students struggling in public schools due to large class sizes and the system’s inflexibility. The founders wanted to see what would happen if you put kids in smaller classes and taught them with an “open-minded philosophy” based on the belief that “everyone can learn.” Cranford says Eagle Hill is distinct from other specialised schools for three key reasons: the school’s appearance, its annual term structure and the level of pastoral care available. As she told The Bermudian, Eagle Hill “looks and feels like a very traditional New England prep school.” Children shouldn’t have to compromise on learning in a beautiful environment or state-of-the-art facilities just because they are struggling academically, she added.

The second unique feature of Eagle Hill School is its nine-term schedule. Each month at Eagle Hill operates as an individual term. This allows the school to create uber-personalised schedules for each student that best serve their needs. Cranford said students are placed in class configurations no larger than six pupils based on a range of data points including student interest, achievement and learning preferences. Core subjects like math run for the majority of the year but more adventurous subjects like ceramics or rope courses only last a term. The school also offers the option for students to take the International Baccalaureate programme in grade 11 and 12. Cranford said students with ADHD or dyslexia are often discouraged from taking IB, APs or a foreign language, but Eagle Hill has systems in place to support these kids’ academic success. “Kids are finally told there are no limits,” Cranford said. She shared an example of an Eagle Hill student from Chicago who had been advised against the IB diploma. Eagle Hill gave her the confidence to pursue the rigorous course. She passed and was accepted into Georgetown University. “Georgetown was right for her, but I don’t know that she would have gotten in without those IB classes,” Cranford added.

What makes Eagle Hill School a particular favourite of international families is the school’s level of pastoral care. Cranford has worked at five independent schools throughout her career, and she told The Bermudian no other school had staff hired specifically as dorm parents. When the students return home to the dormitory, Cranford said, they shouldn’t be left to their own devices. The dorm staff work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. ensuring students clean their rooms, do their homework and even maintain good personal hygiene. “Knowing that you have this wraparound support very much puts people at ease,” Cranford explained. The school’s dean of equity, inclusion and leadership, Dr. Sabrina Perez “keeps a real eye” on international students and students of colour, she added. Bermuda’s connection to Eagle Hill School first began after a school representative attended a school fair at BUEI.

Cranford said they usually have at least two students from Bermuda each year at Eagle Hill. She feels that Bermudian families appreciate Eagle Hill because they “really value education.” Parents interested in enrolling their children can sign up for a virtual “coffee chat” with admissions every Wednesday to learn about the school; alternatively, they can register interest on the school’s admission’s inquiry page via their website. Applications for the next school year are accepted from September until December 1st, and then rolling applications are also considered until all spaces are filled.

Cranford acknowledged the financial concerns of parents considering sending their children to boarding school. Eagle Hill has a financial aid and scholarship programme that is open to Bermudians. Of Eagle Hill School Cranford said: “I think it offers [students] the chance to transform and to really change their trajectory. Not that they have to be feeling like they’re really doing poorly, but it can really open up so many opportunities and possibilities that they may never have dreamed of.”

Sue Cranford will be at the BUEI on September 26th for the Learn Differently Fair, during which prospective students can learn more about Eagle Hill School and the services they offer.

242 Old Petersham Road, Hardwick, Massachusetts – (413) 477-6000 – www.eaglehill.school

Susan Cranford, director of enrolment at Eagle Hill School