Washington, DC Schools for the Deaf

Deaf Schools in the Nation's Capital

Deaf School boys sighn to each other in School class room

When visiting the nation's capital and taking in the tourist sites, there are three other sights that parents of deaf and hard of hearing children may want to take in: the three schools for the deaf in Washington, D.C.

D.C. is home to the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, an internationally known high school. Both schools are on the campus of Gallaudet University in Northeast Washington and are part of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center.

More recently, an oral school was established, the River School, in upper Northwest Washington.


KDES uses English and ASL, has a team teaching approach, and offers an array of services to its deaf students. Students are served through grade eight, after which they either move on to MSSD or attend other schools.

KDES has long had very respected pre-school programs, its Early Childhood programs. At present, the Early Childhood programs, which consist of both a parent-infant program and a preschool program, are using a child-directed learning approach. This is explained in more detail on the Early Childhood Education page, where there is also an extensive listing of skills that the children acquire before moving on to the regular elementary program.

Each team has its own site within the site. A team's site is gaily illustrated with children's drawings and includes details about the team's themes, plus charming photo-illustrated examples of past activities, from start to finish.

In addition, the team sections have online resource libraries of links to web sites related to the team's studies.

KDES has a long and interesting history as a part of Gallaudet University. In fact, according to the history page, KDES' beginnings actually pre-dated the establishment of Gallaudet University.

Even so, KDES did not acquire its present name until 1970.


Right across from KDES, is the high school, the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. The teenagers who attend MSSD come from all over the United States, so the school is both a residential and a day school.

Just as with KDES, MSSD consists of teams, one for each grade level from freshman through senior. Each team's site within the MSSD site features the team's theme. At the time of the site's exploration, the freshman team theme was "understanding systems in a democratic society;" the sophmore team, "understanding origins of major cultures;" the junior team, "the maturing of america;" and the senior class faced the most weighty challenge of all, "the issues and problems of modern society."

The remainder of the site includes the Learning Resource Center (the school's library), information on the student body government, a student life section that focuses on activities and residential life. Of particular interest are the co-curricular activities.

In addition to the typical after-school activities found in any high school, there are Wednesday special topics classes taught on any topic of interest, such as deaf history, and weekend activities, which are designed by the students themselves. Although they are intended to be fun, the co-curricular activities reinforce literacy skills.

Last but definitely not least, there is an online MSSD alumni section.

The River School

The newest school for the deaf in Washington, DC is not on the campus of Gallaudet University. Instead, it is a school with an oral focus, located in upper northwest Washington, called The River School.

As a small, young school it serves children only from birth up to age eight. Photographs illustrate the site, including pictures of young children with cochlear implants. The remainder of the site consists of enrollment information and contact information for River School staff. At the time of the site's exploration, the enrollment page stated that an application could be downloaded from the site, but no application was on the site.

What makes The River School unique as a school for the deaf in the Washington, DC area is that it instructs hearing and deaf children side by side. Established by a team of professionals experienced in working with deaf children, this is a school to watch as the population of deaf children with cochlear implants grows in the D.C. area.

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