Alexandria, VA, July 3, 2014 (Newswire.com) - The River Farm Cooperative is a new elementary school in Alexandria that’s breaking all the rules. There are many things that make the River Farm Cooperative unique, starting with the fact that students in each class will be of mixed ages, backgrounds, and abilities. A hybrid between homeschool and traditional school, River Farm features small, mixed-age classes (a maximum of 13 students) that meet Monday through Friday from 9-3, under the daily leadership of a licensed head teacher and a rotating parent helper. A cooperative elementary school is a new concept—while there are plenty of local cooperative preschools, there are very few programs that extend into the elementary-school years. With private schools being very expensive in the DC area, the cooperative offers an affordable option that fills a much-needed gap.
Founded by Erica Lucier and Emily Paterson, two local parents who share a passion for education, The River Farm Cooperative is a direct response to the expanding class sizes, increased testing, and subsequent perceived diminished quality of education in the local Fairfax County public schools. In her son’s second-grade class at Fort Hunt Elementary, says co-founder, Erica Lucier, “there are nearly 30 kids with various needs and styles of learning, and despite the best intentions of some great teachers, the children simply can not get what they need.” She adds, “the teachers are doing their best in a system that is failing to meet the individual needs of an enormous class.”
“With the faculty and staff cuts coming next year, the writing was on the wall,” says co-founder Emily Paterson, referring to the decision made by the new Fairfax County superintendent, Karen Garza, to cut an estimated 730 staff and faculty jobs for the next school year. The school district is also facing a projected $130 million budget shortfall. “Our kids spend much of the day reading or writing by themselves in their classrooms. They are not getting the attention they deserve, and it became obvious that change was not going to come from within. From an initial lunchtime conversation in October with Erica, the school has evolved from an idea to a reality. We didn’t know how the response from other parents would be, but so far the interest has been overwhelming.”The River Farm Cooperative is a brand new kind of elementary school. A hybrid between traditional school and homeschool, it offers the best of both.
After hiring a head teacher, publishing a website, and hosting several community events, Lucier and Paterson are close to meeting their enrollment goals for the following school year, but there are still several spaces left. For those interested in learning more, the River Farm program and philosophy is outlined in detail on their website: www.RiverFarmCooperative.com