School History

Riverside Elementary School opened in September 1968, approximately two weeks after the start of school on September 3. According to alumni Gary Morin, who was a sixth grader that year, the opening of our school was delayed because the building was still under construction. Mr. Morin’s mother was a volunteer at Riverside, and she helped set up our library. He adds, “The first students at Riverside came from Fort Hunt, Woodlawn, and Woodley Hills elementary schools. I remember music class. It was at the end of the hall in the front of the building, just a couple of doors down from the principal’s office. Our class helped plant the oak tree on the northeast corner of the building. Mrs. Somers was a teacher. Mr. Coins, our janitor, had one arm, but he did it all! Principal Herman Keith showed movies in the cafeteria as a present. He liked nature movies of the great outdoors. I loved the field days we had in June.”  

Design and Construction

Riverside Elementary School was designed by architect Allan J. Dickey. Our school originally had 24 classrooms and was built by the E. H. Glover Construction Company at a cost of $789,000. Our first principal was Herman Keith, Jr. He served from 1968 to 1980.

A white felt letter R is set against a red felt background. On the letter are five small pins, a letter K, a gold star, a red star, a badge with the word kindness printed on it, and a diamond with the letters TV in the center.
One former Riverside tradition that was recently rediscovered, and is poised to make a comeback, is letter achievement pins.

1975 to 1985

The period between 1975 and 1985 was a challenging time for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Student enrollment gradually declined during this decade resulting in the closure of several schools in the eastern part of Fairfax County. The closures affected neighborhoods that saw the earliest growth post-World War II. The children in these neighborhoods were graduating high school, and there were fewer families in the area with young children. Enrollment at Riverside fluctuated, but our school was not in danger of closure. In 1976, 436 students were enrolled at Riverside. That number jumped to 515 in 1978, fell to 366 in 1981, and rebounded to 420 by 1985. Our second principal, Charles P. Gray, came to Riverside from Wilton Woods Elementary School where he’d served as principal until that school closed in 1980.

Black and white photograph of the front of Riverside Elementary School facing Old Mount Vernon Road taken in 1968. The picture was taken during the fall because in the distance some of the trees have started to lose their leaves. The grounds in front of the building are still being sodded.
This photograph is the oldest known picture of our school. It was taken in 1968 after construction of our building was complete.

1985 to 2000

Our third principal was John F. Spataro. He came to Riverside in the early 1980s and had previously served as the principal of Markham Elementary School on the Fort Belvoir military installation. During his principalship Riverside had its first addition. In 1987 the Golden Construction Company built a gymnasium and music room addition to our school at a cost of $680,331. Principal Spataro was succeeded in May 1990 by Janet K. Funk who served as principal until 1995 when she transferred to the newly opened Halley Elementary School. Our fifth principal was Olivia Michener. During her time at Riverside a second addition of six classrooms and a new state-of-the-art library were constructed. This addition began construction in 1996, and was contracted to Zadmer Enterprises, Inc. at a cost of $1.3 million.

Yearbook portraits of Riverside principals Janet Funk and Olivia Michener.
Principals Janet K. Funk (Left, 1990-95), and Olivia Michener (1995-00)

A Glimpse Back in Time

In 1993, Riverside Elementary School was the subject of the Fairfax County Public Schools cable television channel series Profile. The Red Apple 21 crew spent several days at Riverside, gathering interviews with teachers and classroom footage. The resulting 25-minute documentary provides a fascinating snapshot of our school in the early 1990s.


At the beginning of the new millennium, Sandra O. Culmer became Riverside’s sixth principal. Culmer was the former principal of Rose Hill and Poplar Tree elementary schools and only served as our principal for one year before moving on to lead Willow Springs Elementary School. She was succeeded by our longest-serving principal to date, Lori J. Morton. Principal Morton arrived at Riverside in 2001 and two years later led our school through its first, extensive building-wide renewal and modernization. During her principalship, the Young Scholars program began and a Gifted and Talented Center (GT) opened at Riverside. The GT program was the forerunner of the Advanced Academic Program.

Yearbook portraits of Riverside principals Sandra Culmer and Lori Morton. They are both pictured sitting at their desks, looking over paperwork.
Principals Sandra O. Culmer (Left, 2000-01), and Lori J. Morton (2001-15)
Color photograph of the main entrance to Riverside Elementary School from our 2004 to 2005 yearbook. The school has been newly renovated and the entrance awning is painted a bright red.
2004-05 Yearbook Photo of Riverside Elementary School's newly renovated main entrance.

Fun Facts

  • Did you know that Riverside was built on land that was formerly part of Muddy Hole Farm, one of five farms that comprised President George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate? Learn more: Muddy Hole Farm.
Excerpt from a map of the Mount Vernon estate drawn by George Washington showing the location of Muddy Hole Farm. A schoolhouse icon has been placed on the map showing the location of Riverside Elementary School.
Excerpt from a map of the Mount Vernon Estate drawn by George Washington. The icon shows the approximate location of Riverside Elementary School. Courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.
  • In 2010, the National Education Association and the School Library Journal held a nationwide contest, entered by more than 5,000 schools, and Riverside won! What was the prize? On March 18, 2010, Riverside hosted the gala premiere of the Hollywood blockbuster movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Series author Jeff Kinney was in attendance, as were film stars Zachary Gordon (who played Greg Heffley) and Robert Capron (who portrayed Greg’s best friend Rowley). Our safety patrol provided “security services” on the red carpet.
Collage of three images related to the premiere of the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid film. On the left is a picture from our yearbook of actor Robert Capron having his photograph taken in front of our school. He is wearing a black t-shirt imprinted with his character's catch phrase zoo-wee-mama. In the center of the collage is the movie poster for the film. It has a picture of actor Zachary Gordon as Greg Heffley set on a white background. His shadow is an illustration of the character as drawn by book author Jeff Kinney. The poster text reads: It's not a diary, it's a movie. The third picture, on the right, shows a group of Riverside students standing at the edge of the red carpet holding out autograph books. Actor Zachary Gordon appears to be autographing a student's arm.
  • The flags in our main entrance represent the many countries of origin of Riverside’s students.
Photograph of the flags hanging in our main lobby. The American flag is on the far left. At least 41 nations are represented.
  • In 1967, during the architectural design process for our school, Riverside was referred to as Mount Vernon #6 Elementary School. Our building was officially named Riverside by the Fairfax County School Board in May 1968. Learn why that name was chosen in this video produced for Fairfax County Public Schools’ cable television channel Red Apple 21.
Collage showing the covers of four yearbooks. On the far left is the cover from the 1994 to 1995 school year. It is a plain white cover with an illustration of a rocket in flight. Next to it is the cover from the 1997 to 1998 school year. It is student-drawn artwork showing a rocket in flight above the Earth. Six students, representing different nations, stand on top of the planet. Next is the cover of our 2004 to 2005 yearbook. It is a student-drawn illustration of the front of our school with a rocket in flight in the sky above. On the far right is our cover from 2015 to 2016. It is a bright red cover with a white circle in the center. An outline of a rocket is in the center of the circle and the letter R is above it. The words Effort and Attitude are printed beneath the circle.
Riverside Elementary School Yearbook Covers, 1994-95, 1997-98, 2004-05, and 2015-16.

Our School Song

Riverside School is a beautiful sight

Its striking colors are red and white

A school that stands so proudly for all

It’s the one that beats them all

Soar Riverside, Soar Riverside

You’re number one

Soar Riverside, Soar Riverside

Aim for the sun!