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Proposed New Campus: FAQ

Why do you want to move The River School campus?
The new River School campus at 4220 Nebraska Avenue, NW, allows us to address many of the priorities outlined in our Strategic Plan. Specifically, expanding the school would bolster our mission, strengthen our financial sustainability, and allow us to better serve children with hearing loss. The new campus provides space to increase our enrollment by adding classes and gradually adding grades up to grade 6. Extending to grade 6 allows us to provide our innovative approach to language and literacy education—for both children with and without hearing loss—when writing and critical thinking skills are becoming deeply developed. In addition, the new campus would also provide ample open and green spaces, which the current campus lacks, providing River students the opportunity to explore, create and learn in a natural environment.

How, specifically, does The River School serve children with hearing loss?

At The River School, children with hearing loss are taught alongside their hearing peers and receive supporting services and clinical intervention on site. River is the only school of its kind in the U.S., although we are helping a school in Houston replicate our model. These supporting services  are critical for positive outcomes for kids with cochlear implants. (Without them, data show that children actually fare worse with implants.) The school and the clinic have produced some of the best outcomes data in the world on this subject, and it shows that children with hearing loss, when taught in this manner, develop in parity with their hearing peers, both academically and social-emotionally. The program shows what can be done, in the city, and across the nation.

Have you already purchased the property at 4220 Nebraska Avenue, NW?

The property is under contract but the purchase has not been finalized. The River School has made several deposits toward the purchase and signed a purchase agreement with the sellers. The DC Zoning Regulations require that our plans be reviewed and approved by the District’s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). The purchase can only be finalized after such approval. We are working through that complex and lengthy process now.­

Are you planning to increase enrollment?

Yes, The River School currently enrolls 220 students from ages 18 months through grade 3. At the new campus location, we propose to increase enrollment to up to 350 children through grade 6 over a span of approximately 5 or more years. This increase would allow River’s program to weather annual changes and trends in enrollment more effectively over the long-term, to scale costs, and to serve older children with hearing loss.

What are your design plans for the new campus? How big will the new buildings be?

The design for the campus has not yet been finalized; however, the historic mansion house and several structures (e.g., the pool house, gate house, main garage) on the Buchanan Estate will be retained, renovated and integrated into the campus design.

Early site designs are currently being reworked based on community and Historic Preservation Review Board input, and we look forward to reviewing updates with members of The River School and Tenleytown communities. We are also developing landscape design concepts to enhance the natural features of the site and to address issues raised by neighbors, particularly regarding streetscape and screening elements.

How are you going to deal with traffic related to your use of the campus?

Our team has developed, in coordination with DDOT, a comprehensive transportation demand management (TDM) strategy to proactively address the impact of our operations on the surrounding transportation network and encourage sustainable transportation options for members of our school community. Additional details about our transportation plans are available.

In addition, the River School’s traffic consultant is in the process of conducting a Comprehensive Transportation Review (CTR), which includes a detailed analysis of traffic conditions before and projected conditions after the school opens and will identify traffic impacts associated with the proposed project, as well as improvements required to mitigate those impacts. The CTR will be completed prior to the BZA review of The River School proposal, allowing ample time for community review and input before the school is constructed and operational.

What types of services are provided at The River School clinic?  How many patients will be coming to the clinic every day?

The River School has a partnership with a related non-profit clinic we created for children with hearing loss that operates in our building on MacArthur Boulevard and would also be part of the Nebraska Avenue campus. Services include diagnostic and audiology assessment, hearing aid and cochlear implant programming, occupational and speech therapy, auditory-verbal therapy, and psychological assessment and treatment. These services are an ancillary function that furthers River’s core educational mission. The clinic also provides a vital service to the community as one of only two facilities in the District that accepts Medicaid for its diagnostic audiology services.

The clinic primarily serves River School students, including alumni, and is also open to the surrounding community. At a full enrollment of 350 students, we anticipate The River School would have ten clinicians on staff—most of whom would also teach and/or have administrative responsibilities—who would see four to five patients each day for a total of 40 to 50 patients daily. Of those 50 patients, we anticipate approximately 60 percent (30 patients) would be current River School students who are already on campus; 20 to 30 percent (10-15 patients) would be River School alumni; and 10 to 20 percent (5-10 patients) would be individuals that are not directly related to The River School.

How can I provide feedback regarding the project?

Questions and comments are encouraged and can be submitted at any time through the Community Input Portal. Responses will be updated regularly and posted in the Feedback and Responses page. Additionally, we will be attending ANC meetings and convening additional community information sessions as our plans become more defined. Information about these upcoming engagement activities will be posted on our website.

What is the timeline for the project?

Depending on the timing of the BZA approval, The River School anticipates that construction will begin no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2022. We will provide an estimated completion date when our plans are closer to final. We are currently revising them based on input.

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