River Crest Named 2021 National Blue Ribbon School

Blue Ribbon Schools Seal

Congratulations to River Crest Elementary School for receiving the highly esteemed, U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools award. This recognition is based on the the school’s overall progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Across the nation, only 325 schools are being recognized for 2021.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stated, “This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish. I commend all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

The following is a summary of River Crest Elementary School’s application.

River Crest Elementary is an Early Childhood to Fifth Grade school committed to “Inspiring Excellence from the Start.” River Crest is one of six elementary schools in the Hudson School District in Wisconsin. Hudson has a proud tradition of being a school district committed to excellence. Our students, families, staff and community are united in creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment that provides equitable access, so all students fully participate in their academic and personal success. The Hudson School District is located in the scenic St. Croix River Valley of Wisconsin, just fifteen miles east of the Minnesota Twin Cities. Hudson Schools cover approximately 77 square miles, including all or part of the City of Hudson, Village of North Hudson and the Townships of Hudson, St. Joseph, and Troy. River Crest opened in 2008; it was designed and built with a focus on environmental sustainability and is a LEED Gold certified building.

At River Crest Elementary, we know that learning spaces are not held within the classroom walls. River Crest sits on the bluffs above the St. Croix River. We embrace and capitalize on the opportunities this unique setting provides. We have an outdoor learning pavilion for instruction near the prairie for classes, and a one mile walking trail around the school grounds. Playground space includes both traditional play areas and natural play space that our Environmental Kids Club helped design. We have partnered with the St. Croix Valley Prairie Enthusiasts to engage students in researching and observing prairie restoration on our property. We visit the neighboring YMCA-Camp St. Croix using the tunnel, which safely connects our properties.

We know that special events done with intention shape lives and perspective. One of our favorite special events is our day of service: Caring for Others Near and Far. The service we participate in extends beyond a single day, but each year we partner with our PTO and dedicate an entire school day to taking action together to focus on service. Projects have included making toys and blankets for dogs that get adopted through a local rescue, making Bee Bombs, collecting books for a library in Ghana, and making 1,000 sandwiches that were distributed through the Sandwich Project of Minnesota. Another special event that is very meaningful to our school is Veterans Day. Our Veterans Day celebration is focused on respect and gratitude. Students send invitations to active duty and Veteran service members, make cards for Veterans, we hold an assembly with special speakers, and host a reception. This year, because of COVID restrictions, students made cards, wrote letters, and created a video that was sent to Veterans.

River Crest also celebrates reading together as a school community each year. With support from grants and our PTO, we participated in a One School One Book event. Every family received a copy of the book. Our PBIS Team organized a United Through Literature program one year where each month every classroom received a picture book connected to a character trait and then we followed up with activities. In 2021, we shared a common book across the building and with families. Although we could not have guests physically in the school, we streamed parent volunteers reading chapters of the book into classrooms. It was great to connect our students to parents through literature.

We know that our love and passion for students does not start and end with bells. River Crest has a spring Running Club where parents run with students and staff in the morning before the bell to help prepare for our one mile run event. Students have the opportunity to be part of our Environmental Kids Club which meets before school. During the spring of 2020, when our school building was shut down, teachers worked all hours of the day to support students. Staff worked with parents who were juggling the demands of their own work while also helping to support the learning of their children. Teachers dropped materials off at homes, they took calls and connected with families through Google Meets. Teachers and families worked through challenges together and it was evident each day that nothing was going to stop them from helping students through these challenges.

We know parents and community are our partners. Our River Crest students and staff benefit from our highly engaged parents. Parents support learning through their active participation in special events, conferences, Art Adventure, Junior Achievement, and evening activities like Reading Night, Math Night, our Carnival, and Movie Night. The River Crest PTO is an essential partner and has supported each and every part of what makes our school special with their leadership, time, and financial support. Our YMCACamp St. Croix partners have helped bring environmental learning and experiences alive for our school community.

Learn more about the Nation Blue Ribbon Schools program at: https://nationalblueribbonschools.ed.gov/