HURLEYVILLE, NY — The Homestead School is a Montessori-based school with campuses located in Glen Spey and Hurleyville. It offers “children ages 3 years to 18 years (Pre-K through 12th …
HURLEYVILLE, NY — The Homestead School is a Montessori-based school with campuses located in Glen Spey and Hurleyville. It offers “children ages 3 years to 18 years (Pre-K through 12th grade) a unique, life-enriching, humanitarian, and outdoor-oriented educational experience.”
In 1978, Peter and Marsha Comstock founded the original Homestead School on the 200-year-old, 85-acre homestead of the locally prominent McKenzie clan.
As an interesting sidelight to the valley’s rich and varied history, the first structure on the Homestead was constructed by Peter Comstock’s great-grandfather sometime around 1879.
As time progressed, the school expanded in Glen Spey, and in December of 2020, it announced a partnership with SUNY Sullivan to establish a secondary education program in Hurleyville. This would ultimately provide Montessori education to students in grades nine through 12.
The students would graduate with a New York State high school diploma—and if they choose to, an associate’s degree as well.
For now, though, in the 2023 school year the collaborative college high school (CCHS) offers a broad range of regular classes and electives to students in grades nine and 10. The plan is to expand the program to include the upper grades—11, then 12—in each of the following years.
Following in the footsteps of his parents Peter and Marsha, Jack Comstock serves as director of the Homestead School’s secondary program, while his wife Nisha Gupta directs the primary program at the Glen Spey campus.
Comstock attended his folks’ school through the third grade, and then went to school at Eldred up to the eighth grade. Then he transferred to St. Andrews School, a small boarding school in Delaware.
After graduating from Colby College, he took a year off to travel to India, where he met his future wife. He continued studying the “Montessori Way,” and later worked to expand the primary school to a full upper elementary and middle school.
He then moved on to planning the new school, which now includes grades seven through 10, with plans to add grades 11 and 12.
On the topic of the relevance of the collaborative undertaking with the local community college, Comstock said, “It’s something we’ve had experience with, growing the program with the students… it works beautifully with the Montessori model.”
Students, he said, own their learning environment.
“There’s a lot of choice built into this. Even in the seventh grade, it feels like a college experience. The sky’s the limit with drama, video production, creative writing and animation,” he explained. “They can really explore and find out what their passions are.”
Across all grades, from seven through 10, there is a solid list of foundation courses in mathematics, social studies and the sciences, plus a growing list of college electives.
Last year, the CCHS offered Spanish I and composition, while this year, ninth grade students can sign up for intercultural communications, humanities and a course on the principles of biology. Tenth graders can add Statistics or Algebra 2 to the mix.
On the drawing board: 11th graders could select from statistics, algebra 2, pre-calculus and an elective titled ANT/ECO/GEO/PLO/PSY/SOC/SUS—which stands for anthropology, economics, geography, political science, psychology, sociology and sustainability.
Seniors can select literature, English, stats or college algebra, pre-calculus, calc, sustainability and/or another elective.
“By the end of their senior year of high school, they should be well on their way to earning an associate’s degree, and have a real shot to matriculate to a state college as a junior,” said Comstock. “We’re trying to open up experiences to some potential fields, (so) they will have a better sense of where they might want to go… that when as adults, they are doing something of value.”
In making it all work, Comstock credited the support of several SUNY Sullivan administrators: college president Jay Quaintance; Rosemarie Hanofee, dean of liberal arts, sciences and health sciences; and Mark Singer, vice president of academic and student affairs.
“SUNY Sullivan’s president is a fantastic partner in all this, a long-time supporter of early education programs, a champion in the collaboration,” said Comstock.
According to SUNY Sullivan’s president, “A great deal of my career has been dedicated to early access to college-level work for high school students. Our collaboration with the Homestead School’s long history of innovative education is the first of its kind and leads the county and the region in a new direction.”
Quaintance continued: “We know that all our lives are enhanced by quality educational opportunities and that every young person should have the option that fits their needs. SUNY Sullivan is proud to provide this at the Collaborative College High School.”
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