New school for students with autism and other disabilities opens in Roanoke


ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – As thousands of kids are heading back to school, students at Centra Health’s newest Rivermont School are excited to enjoy the benefits of a brand new facility. The school’s program is geared toward kids with disabilities and significant academic challenges to help them learn skills and be successful in life.

“That’s our main function, to help those students that public schools have difficulty serving. Our ultimate goal is to transition them back to their home schools, wherever that may be, and we want to just give them the skills that they need so that they can be successful in public school,” says Brian Summo, school principal at Centra Health’s Rivermont School in Roanoke.

The school, which is located at 1314 Riverland Rd. SE, is the fourteenth Rivermont School around the commonwealth and the second in the Roanoke Valley by Centra Health, a regional nonprofit healthcare system based in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Summo says it was necessary to expand the program at Centra’s first Rivermont School in Roanoke due to a fairly large group. 25 out of their expected 36 students this year will be transferred to the new location. While the other facility focuses on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), this new school on Riverland Rd. will focus on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

The brand new school has several unique features like an indoor gymnasium and a speech therapy room. Their sensory room functions as an area where kids can go to let out energy and relieve stress in a calming notion. School officials say they even have an independent living room where older students can learn how to live on their own.

“We have a life skills apartment, which contains a kitchen, a bedroom, a dining room area, bathroom, shower where we can go teach some of our older students how to live on their own and perform those chores we all don’t want to do, but we need to know how to do,” says Summo.

In addition to the features, the facility has seven classrooms and can hold up to 70 students.

Summo says the community has been really welcoming as they prepare for a new school year.

“We’re really excited about being a part of this community. I know we’ve been really welcomed by some of our neighbors here and we’re looking forward to working with them and having our students be out in the community doing service projects or working on a career in technical education skills and things like that,” says Summo.

He says staff members are excited and have been preparing all week to welcome their new students for their first day of school on Monday, August 19th.

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