The school's Middle School program consists of grades 6-8, and its Upper School program is for students in grades 9-12. As of 2009, 451 students from 70 Massachusetts towns attend. The average class size is 11 students. As of 2009, the Rivers School's endowment is $17.2 million.
The Rivers School was founded as a school for boys in 1915 by educator Robert W. Rivers at the suggestion of a group of Boston-area physicians who believed that the rugged environment of an open-air school would promote good health in days when many young people fell victim to life-threatening, contagious illnesses.
Twenty-five years and one new campus later, The Country Day School for Boys of Boston merged with Rivers. The school continued to grow in popularity and size and moved its location twice more to satisfy increasing demands for classrooms and playing fields. The latter of these moves was in 1960, when Rivers settled on the sprawling Loker Farm wetland acreage bordering Nonesuch Pond in Weston.
Rivers became co-educational in 1989.
Over the past decade there have been several changes and improvements made to the Middle School, including the addition of a 6th grade. Students in the Middle School are required to take science, math, and foreign language in addition to a double period humanities course that integrates English and social studies. For example, in the 8th grade, students explore the history of the civil rights movement while reading relevant literature of the era such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Core classes in the Middle School also include yearlong visual and performing arts courses, as well as a yearlong drama class in 6th grade and a yearlong media literacy class in 7th grade. All middle school students participate in human development and wellness seminars. Students participate in the Rivers athletic program through a number of interscholastic and some intramural sports.
In addition to core classes in English, history, science, math, and foreign language, Rivers offers electives such as robotics, alternative energy sources, sports medicine, journalistic writing, ethics, Mandarin Chinese, and filmmaking. A newly created Interdisciplinary Studies Department with courses such as The Enlightenment, Adaptations and Interpretations, and Dante's Divine Comedy, challenge students to make connections across the disciplines.
Students are required to take classes in the visual and performing arts. Visual arts classes include ceramics, drawing, photography, sculpture, printmaking, painting and computer graphics. Performing arts includes drama classes as well as a collaboration with The Rivers Conservatory that allows students to participate in orchestra, chorus and various jazz combos.
During junior and senior years, students are encouraged to create a schedule that best reflects their interests, expertise, and passions. Each senior also presents a speech to the entire community on a topic of personal significance. As a culminating experience to their high school careers, seniors design a project that allows them to pursue a passion and transition to life beyond Rivers. These senior projects serve as work-learning experiences that students are able to continue after graduation in many cases.
Rivers offers the following Advanced Placement classes:
- English literature and composition
- United States History
- Modern European History
- Calculus AB and BC
- Environmental Science
- Music Theory
Rivers competes in the Independent School League. The Rivers School campus has more than 12 acres (49,000 m2) of playing fields that includes Waterman Field, a 54,000-square-foot (5,000 m2) multi-sport synthetic turf field, as well as six outdoor tennis courts.
Indoor athletic facilities include The Haffenreffer Gymnasium with a full size basketball court and the 78,000- square foot MacDowell Athletic Center which contains:
- The MacDowell Ice Arena hockey rink, which during the fall, spring and summer transforms into a 70 x 40 yard indoor synthetic field
- The Benson Gymnasium
- The Benson Fitness Center
- Sports medicine office
- Team rooms
- Locker rooms
Rivers has boys and girls varsity teams in the following sports:
- Football (boys only)
- Field Hockey (girls only)
- Cross Country
- Ice Hockey
- Baseball (boys only)
- Softball (girls only)
Each year there are approximately 55 teams at various levels from middle school, thirds, junior varsity and varsity.
In recent years, the school's athletic teams have been very competitive. In 2005 and 2006, the girls' soccer team was named the NEPSAC Class C champions, and in 2007 the team rose to win the NEPSAC Class B championship. In 2006 and 2007, the boys' tennis team became the NEPSAC Class C champions, and in 2007, the girls' ice hockey team became NEPSAC Division II finalists after having only three years of play at the varsity level. This past season, in 2009, the boys’ varsity lacrosse team went 14-1 in the Independent School League to earn a share of the league title. The girls’ varsity basketball team won the New England Class B Tournament as well as the Rivers Holiday Tournament. The boys’ varsity soccer team finished second in the New England Class B Championship, while both the girls’ and the boys’ skiing teams finished third in the New England Class C Championship.
In 2008-2009, Rivers had two athletes named to All-American teams, two named to All-Scholastic teams, six named to All-New England teams, two named to All-State teams, nine named New England All-Stars, and twenty-six named to All-League teams.
Outreach activities, seen as an integral part of the Rivers experience, are coordinated through the Alan J. Bernon Family Center for Community Outreach and Service.
School Wide Outreach
Each year, the Rivers community participates in a variety of community service projects including:
- Thanksgiving Food Drive to benefit food pantries in local communities
- Bi-annual Massachusetts General Hospital Bloodmobile Blood Drive
- Annual Holiday Basketball Tournament
- Annual faculty service day (Pine Street Inn, Rosie’s Place, A Place to Turn)
- Winter Clothing Drive
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Fund-raising Servathon to benefit Rivers Givers
- Chorus & Jazz Band performances for senior citizens
- Snack preparation for Framingham Civic League Saturday Lunch Program
- Preparation of holiday gift packs for people who are in need of homes
- Environmental awareness and recycling projects
- Work at local community farms and wild-life sanctuaries
- Red Key admissions tours
- Grade 10 Annual Special Olympics Basketball tournament
- Grade 9 Annual Greater Boston Food Bank service day
- Service Trips to Romania and Montana
The Rivers Givers Youth & Philanthropy program was established in the fall of 2002 by a young female student at the time, Nicolette Clifford . Her brother Christian Clifford also aided in the start of the program. Now an independent, youth philanthropy program, Rivers Givers is responsible for identifying and supporting a broad range of non-profit organizations in the Greater Boston area that are committed to meeting the needs of children and youth.
The Rivers School Conservatory
The Rivers School Conservatory was founded in 1975 when The New England Conservatory of Music closed all of the suburban branches of its preparatory school including its Wellesley school. The displaced families from Wellesley, Weston, and Wayland convinced Ethel Bernard, one of the pioneers of the music school movement, to found a music school committed to excellence in music education and performance. Ethel Bernard approached The Rivers School with the idea of founding a music school in the unoccupied former headmaster’s house on the campus of the then all-boys college preparatory school.
First called The Music School at Rivers, The Rivers School Conservatory has been one of the nation’s leading community music conservatories ever since. In 1978, the Annual Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young was established and gained Rivers world-wide renown through a WGBH-TV documentary that was broadcast internationally by PBS. Seminar guests have included John Cage (1983). All pieces performed are composed in the 25 year period prior to each seminar. Many were premières and several dozen were commissioned pieces. Recent examples include Matineé: The Fantom of the Fair by Libby Larsen.
Over the past three and a half decades, the Conservatory has grown to over 750 students, including a student orchestra program, jazz and chamber ensembles, music theory and composition, its critically acclaimed Marimba Magic Program, choruses, master classes, workshops, and private lessons on every orchestral and jazz instrument, piano, and voice.
- Jon Anik '97, commentator and television host for the Ultimate Fighting Championship
- Joseph I. Banner ’71, president and chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Eagles
- Glen W. Bowersock ’53, ancient history scholar at Princeton University
- Richard G. Darman ’60, former director of the Office of Management and Budget (1989–1993)
- Jillian Dempsey ’09, ice hockey player
- Philip Goldberg '74, The US Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research
- Jack Lemmon ’39, actor
- John T. Noonan, Jr. '44, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit senior judge
- Elliot Richardson, lawyer and member of Nixon and Ford cabinets
- Frederick Wiseman '47, documentary filmmaker
- Charlie Rugg '09, Professional Soccer Player for the Los Angeles Galaxy