Significantly Small – Uniquely Uncomplicated
Students at River School-Sodus can’t get lost in the crowd. From the minute you enter our building, you will feel like one of the family. Administrators, teachers, and support staff will know your name and work hard to provide for your learning needs.
A public school for students in grades K – 8, River School-Sodus accepts students from throughout Berrien County. We are proud of being one of the tiniest school districts in Michigan, with district boundaries that encompass only 2.5 square miles and a maximum capacity of about 80 students. Our size is our strength; we are a place where students can begin their educational experience in a non-threatening, personalized environment. We deliver the same instruction and adhere to the same regulations as other public schools, but at River School, there is no bureaucracy, no complicated procedures, no need to clamor for our attention. We stand ready to support every student, every day.
Rooted in the Community
With roots dating back to the 19th century, River School is an historical landmark as well as a family tradition. Reading the extensive history of the school, compiled by several alums and staunch supporters, is like taking a stroll through time. (Wendy: because the long history was compiled by these folks, it is probably in the principal’s best interest to keep it intact and archived on the site so interested folks can read it.) Some fast facts highlight our background:
- The lot for River School dates back to 1835 and the building itself to at least 1862.
- Mr. Gleason, the first teacher (who also served as the janitor), made an annual salary of $320 per year in 1901. Some of his supplies included soap (15¢), stove blacking (10¢), and school insurance ($2.50).
- The school paid tuition for students to attend high school ($20 per year for two students in 1912).
- In 1913, the school had to be closed for two weeks because of smallpox.
- River School burned to the ground on March 31, 1927. Everything was totally destroyed but two quick-acting teachers made sure that none of the 60 students were harmed. Although the new school had only two rooms, several additions have created today’s comfortable learning spaces, complete with air conditioning and wireless internet capabilities.
- Every year, new students attend River School from throughout Berrien County; however, many families have two, three, even as many as four generations of River School students.
- As a primary school district, River School has three members on the Board of Education; several dedicated board members have served for ten or more years.
As school historians note, River School is about more than “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” The activities historians recall harken back to a simpler time: chicken or spaghetti suppers, hayrides and sleigh rides, softball and Ping-Pong, snowball fights, and games only a few of us may recall, with intriguing names like “Blind Turkey” and “Pom-Pom Pullaway.” The Fall Festival, Halloween, student-made Thanksgiving dinners and the Christmas program were staples that established the parental involvement and volunteerism that continues to benefit River School. Today, River School provides students with diverse activities to support their intellectual, social, and physical development . . . and to ensure that all of our students make their own memories.
“When I think of River School, I remember a teacher who could write with both hands, Miss Potratz.”
— Amy Rogers at age 21 in 1993
“Mr. Pope held boxing matches between the boys during recess and noon using big, soft gloves.”
— Lawrence E. Harte at age 62 in 1993
“Walking to school in the winter with my brother down the Interurban Track as it was cleared and the road wasn’t. The train was coming and Ed climbed up the snow bank and pulled me up until the train passed.”
— Elsie Rhode, age 84 in 1993
“I will always remember Mrs. Brown singing a lullaby to the Kindergartners at rest time while we sat around a table with our heads down.”
— Marybeth Prillwitz at age 40 in 1993