From Head of School Nancy Mellon
It all started in 1999, when I signed the ownership papers for our building on MacArthur Boulevard in Washington, D.C. In doing so, my friends, family, colleagues and I, with the help of a foundation, established the first – and only – independent school of its kind in the nation for children with hearing loss and their hearing peers.
For our ten students back then, and for our more than 200 students today, The River School is a vibrant place that provides the rich and varied experiences all children need to build a foundation for their lives. Many River students take their first steps as learners here, the basis for great leaps later in their language, thinking and social development.
Why The River School?
In 1992, my son Will was born with profound deafness. At age 2, he received a cochlear implant. For the next three years, while Will received some of the nation’s best individualized support outside of school, I also watched him flourish in a small D.C. preschool alongside hearing children. He was confident and communicative. He sang, loved books, and talked nonstop. I wanted to give other children (really, every child!) born with deafness a dynamic classroom experience like Will’s, plus the extra support they need, all in one place. And I had a hunch that hearing children would benefit, too, from a heightened focus on language and literacy.
Indeed, that has been the case. Over the years, so many parents have said to me, “River is the best first school for a child.” We are fortunate to be able to do it right, with small classes, highly educated teachers, and lots of individual attention. River feels different from many other excellent D.C. preschool and elementary schools because our focus is on the foundational years, when children develop language, ideas, and a sense of who they are as people and in the community.
How Does River Stand Out?
We are inclusive. When one to three students in each class lives with hearing loss, children learn there are different ways to think, to feel, to process information, and to express themselves. A classroom where difference is the norm advances social-emotional learning and promotes an ethos of caring, engagement, and support that extends beyond the classroom. Our unique co-teaching model is effective. Having a master’s level educator and a speech-language pathologist together in each classroom has greatly impacted and enhanced the language, literacy and social outcomes of our students.
We have small classes. With a student-teacher ratio averaging five-to-one, River students receive an unmatched level of attention. Your child is known, and teachers artfully balance appropriate levels of challenge with support. Teaching is personal at River, and teachers and students establish the strong relationships that spark authentic learning.
Our website will give you a peek into the energetic, creative and collaborative place experienced by our students and faculty, and a sense of the atmosphere—a place where every child can find their voice and thrive. I invite you to see the school in person to feel the buzz for yourself.