River HomeLink turns 30 with an eye toward the future of learning

Feb. 8, 2024

Now in its 30th year, River HomeLink has changed a lot. Originally launched as the Home-Link Technology Center by teachers Gary Albers and Larry Pierson, the program offered computer lab time one day per week, with additional learning done outside of the classroom. In 1995, Home-Link became River HomeLink and moved to a church building in Camas.

A room full of people, some hugging or laughing

The River HomeLink commons area was packed during the school’s recent 30th anniversary celebration

After outgrowing two locations there, the school moved back to Battle Ground Public Schools in 2011, eventually settling into its current location at the “longhouse” on the Maple Grove campus two years later. By then, the school was home to over 600 K-12 students and offered more than 80 enrichment opportunities.

Today, River HomeLink is the district’s third-largest school, with enrollment over 1,000. The popular River Online Learning program, launched in 2014, was recently spun out into an independent online school called Battle Ground Virtual Academy and already boasts a full-time enrollment of around 300 students.

Most students attend River two days per week, meeting with teachers to help complete assignments or participating in programs, including outdoor learning, arts, music and theater. 

Principal Mark Clements with current River HomeLink principal Matt Kesler

Retired River HomeLink principal Mark Clements with current principal Matt Kesler (right)

“There has always been a focus on standards-based learning and that has led to innovation and flexibility that our students and families appreciate,” said current RHL Principal Matt Kesler.

Parental involvement is a key component of the program. “Parents are viewed as the students’ first teachers and actively participate in their children’s learning,” said Mark Clements, principal at River until he retired in 2020. “They logged more than 40,000 hours of time on campus each of the three years prior to the pandemic. More than two dozen parents have become certificated teachers because of their experience at RHL.”

A multi-generational learning experience

“High school kids attend classes across the hall from kindergarteners,” said longtime English teacher Ryan Anderson. “We have elementary kids, middle school kids and high school kids moving through the hallways and common areas all at the same time, and we have the least behavioral problems of any school I’ve been at.”

Theater teacher Sandy Sparks agrees. “Students can literally attend RHL from K-12 grade. Teachers, staff, and families can watch students grow up. Having parents in the classroom fosters relationships and partnerships that support student learning.”

Looking to the future

Teacher Ryan Anderson in front of an old school photo

River HomeLink teacher Ryan Anderson poses in front of an old staff photo from when he joined the school in 2004

As for where the school goes from here, Anderson says he hopes it becomes a model for other districts. 

“Whenever we go through accreditation, it seems like the visiting state officials always say things like, ‘This is what education is supposed to be like,’” Anderson said. 

“Remote and hybrid work environments are rapidly emerging within the global economy,” Clements opined. “RHL could become a ‘model school’ to prepare students for the ever-changing global workspace.”

If you are interested in learning more about River HomeLink, be sure to visit their website or contact them at 360-334-8200 and request a tour. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis, but space is limited.


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Battle Ground, WA 98604

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