The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
New school looks at managing behaviors
BY LINDLEY ESTES
The Rivermont School opens Tuesday in southern Stafford, offering help for students with emotional, behavioral, learning and developmental difficulties.
The school off U.S. 17 in the Celebrate Virginia North development is the Centra Health’s ninth campus in Virginia. The nonprofit healthcare provider started the Rivermont system 25 years ago with its first school in Lynchburg.
The goal of Rivermont is to teach students ages 5 to 22 how to manage their behaviors, according to the healthcare system’s website.
Jenny Oxendine, principal of the new Rivermont school, said that public schools contact them when students are not able to handle the traditional classroom setting.
Paula Dubay, marketing director of the company’s mental health services, said that they realized the need in the Fredericksburg area last year with the closing of Snowden Academy, a private day school, which educated children in grades 3 through 12 who required specialized care because of behavioral issues.
Oxendine said the location off of Celebrate Virginia Parkway in Stafford is perfect.
“I love the setting,” she said. “It’s peaceful, tranquil and there’s lots of natural light in the school.”
She said that success at the Rivermont School is judged by a student’s personal success and their ability to transfer back into the regular school system.
“Students that come to us get what they need to return [to their original school],” Oxendine said.
The school, with a capacity for 60 students, will start with eight and 10 students this fall.
“When you stay small you get to know the students and their families,” she said.
Rivermont’s team includes special-education teachers, mental-health counselors, licensed professional counselors and administrators.
In classrooms, Rivermont pairs special-education teachers with mental health counselors to make sure each student’s individualized education plan is followed.
The 10-person staff has been getting the school ready for students.
Ashley Huff, middle school teacher, and Megan Rehberg, mental health counselor for middle schools students, have applied for grants for the Stafford school since August.
“We want to build a playground,” Huff said.
She also said that being in a new school has been nice.
“We’re making it our own,” she said.
Oxendine said she’s pleased with the creativity of the teachers and counselors.
“This staff has a heart to be creative,” she said. “You need that in a special-education setting. And they really can look at each student as an individual.”
Public schools turn to Rivermont when special-education departments refer students who they think would benefit from its programs.
According to Centra Health, one 19-year-old student, referred to Rivermont’s school in Tidewater, Virginia, was aggressive in her school. She physically assaulted people in the classroom and habitually stormed out.
The staff at Rivermont determined that bullying from her previous school and struggles with mathematics caused her to act out.
After her time at Rivermont, she improved her behavior and was able to graduate.
Trish Woodson, a therapist at the Rivermont School in Stafford, has been with the system for 11 years at their Danville location.
“We saw a lot of success with kids going back to school,” she said.
Woodson said that she helps them focus on how to succeed by managing emotions, but Rivermont takes a different approach than most schools do.
“It makes a difference,” she said. “They’re used to being caught doing something bad, but here we try to catch them being good and make that last.”
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976