About Us

About Us

Three Rivers Village School is an  independent alternative school in Pittsburgh, PA, serving youth ages 5-18.

The mission of Three Rivers Village School is to operate a school where the human tendency to self-actualize is trusted and students balance autonomy with responsibility for themselves and the school community.


This mission is supported by the following commitments:

  1. Students have ample opportunity for full ownership of their education; they choose how to spend their time at school beyond their community obligations
  2. Students have access to materials and community resources.
  3. Students experience freedom of association; the school does not separate students by age or ability.
  4. Students are free from mandatory curriculum and mandatory academic testing.
  5. The school is governed by School Meeting, consisting of both students and staff.
  6. Responsibility for operating and governing the school is shared by students, staff, the Board of Trustees, and the Firefly Fellowship.
  7. Students and staff manage day-to-day operations through democratic processes and each person has an equal vote.
  8. Tuition is affordable for families of a variety of economic backgrounds.
  9. School staff dependably steward the program’s facilities, finances, and business; facilitate student access to resources; exemplify mature practice of personal fulfillment and community engagement; and anchor school culture to values of interpersonal respect and trust in the natural impulse to self-actualize.
  10. Students, staff, and the Board of Trustees are obligated to help promote the general welfare of the school, through actions that contribute to maintaining a culture of freedom, safety, respect, fairness, trust, and order.
  11. The school welcomes families of all compositions.
  12. Students, staff, and the Board of Trustees promote a culture that challenges racism and other forms of institutional and interpersonal oppression.



There are no required classes, books, tests, or homework. TRVS trusts that children learn best when driven by internal motivation, following their own rhythm and path. Students can pursue any safe activity that does not infringe on the safety or freedom of other people including activities beyond the walls of our building.

Staff members strive to be excellent adult role models. They have responsible, intentional relationships with all school members. Staff do not determine how students should spend their time at school. They are available for student support, help locate resources when asked, and spend time with students during the school day. Their aim is to be available, without being intrusive.

Students benefit from being around people of a variety of ages. We all have a lot to learn from each other and sometimes kids learn better from other kids. Free association of age more accurately reflects the real world. It allows students the opportunity to interact with and learn from others who are at various points of development. Younger kids look to older ones for help and inspiration. Older kids learn about boundaries and how to care for others younger and with less capacity than themselves. Not separating students by age or ability also sends the message that we are all on equal footing with the same rights and responsibilities as a community. Free association among all ages lets relationships develop based on passions, personalities, and circumstance.



To make school a place where everyone is safe, respected and empowered, we all accept limitations and take on responsibilities. We work together in School Meeting to democratically create and manage community agreements in the form of rules, policies, and other permissions. These decisions apply to all students and staff equally. We are responsible for ourselves and to each other as a community. Students’ time is mostly their own, but some cleaning, conversations, and consideration is required to keep the community healthy.

School Meeting is the main structure that governs the school. TRVS is run by direct democracy. There is no adult to approve or veto School Meeting’s decisions. This means that students have a real say in all of school operations. Together, students and staff vote on things such as how to spend money, school legislation, who holds certain clerkships and chair positions. Even the yearly calendar, budget and staff hiring are voted on and approved by School Meeting.

School Meeting meets daily to discuss and vote on the matters mentioned above as well as a variety of other school business as it comes up. Everyone is invited to participate in School Meeting but it is not mandatory.  

The rules that School Meeting create are guideposts that help preserve the integrity of the community and protect individual freedoms. School Meeting has the authority to intervene in the event of chronic rule violations especially in cases that involve harm to others or to the school. Staff and self-selected students explore and practice communication tools to offer support in cases of interpersonal conflict. These include mediation, non-violent communication, and circle processes. A sense of community and belonging is fundamental to the student’s experience at TRVS.


TRVS opened in 2013 and has just celebrated its first decade as Pittsburgh’s only school that is run by direct democracy and fosters student autonomy as a fully self-directed education model.

Since 2015 we’ve been nestled in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood. Hazelwood is rich in history and has a unique combination of urban and green spaces. Students have access to local businesses, a public library, and multiple playgrounds and greenways. 

The mission and program of Three Rivers Village School have been inspired by the Sudbury Valley School of Framingham, MA, The Circle School of Harrisburg, PA, and The Free School of Albany, NY. We are one of approximately 40 schools around the continental US that have taken inspiration from these models. 


Students are admitted if they, their families, and the admissions committee believe they will thrive. The school seeks a student body that reflects the diversity of our city in terms of socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other measures.

The school is primarily tuition funded. TRVS is committed to creating a workable financial plan for the family of every child who wants to attend. For full information about enrolling, see our admissions page.