Zena Democratic School is a self-directed school that empowers students aged 5-18 to develop organically, participate fully in the democratic governing of the school, explore a wide variety of experiential and learning opportunities, and experience autonomy within a vibrant and caring community. Our core values are centered around the democratic process, personal responsibility, and engaged and compassionate community.

Students of all ages have freedom of choice, freedom of movement, and freedom of association. Such freedom is both a great joy and a great responsibility, simultaneously allowing students to enjoy their childhood and challenging them to grow and expand in ways appropriate to each. Self-direction leverages the power of internal motivation to encourage students to develop along their natural proclivities and leverage their unique suite of strengths; they learn to take on tasks they would otherwise avoid in the service of attaining their goals. Over time, self-directed humans naturally develop vital skill sets like self-reflection, executive function, and internal regulation.

Zena Democratic School is located on a parcel of 67 wooded acres in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley region of New York State. The campus is adjacent to the Bluestone Wild Forest and Onteora Lake recreation areas, which feature thousands of acres of public lands.

Zena Democratic School admits students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin to all the privileges, programs, and activities generally according or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, or any other general demographic attribute in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

Criteria for Enrollment
Zena Democratic School prioritizes accessibility to its unique program. They admit all students who can:

  • Consistently refrain from violent or threatening behavior.
  • Care for their own basic functions, including toilet use.
  • Consistently respond to dialogue and verbal questions.
  • Engage our democratic processes when necessary.

View the admissions process.

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