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Frequently asked questions


What is a charter school?

A charter school is a public school, free of charge, managed by its own school board and overseen by New York State. Charter schools are designed to encourage innovation, improve student achievement, and provide families with greater educational choice. The State University of New York approved the charter for New Roots Charter School and oversees the school and its Board.

Who is eligible to become a student?

Students in 9th through 12th grades are eligible to enroll at New Roots. Students from the Ithaca City School District are given preference, but any student eligible to attend public school in N.Y. State may apply. Please visit our web site to fill out an on-line interest form, or to download a paper copy of our enrollment form.

How is New Roots different from other high school programs?

At New Roots, each student develops a close working relationship with a faculty mentor who supervises his or her academic progress. The school’s core curriculum is designed so that the topics studied in different courses relate to each other. Sustainability and social justice integrate and inform all areas of study. Courses are inquiry-oriented and problem-based. Students apply their learning in multiple locations to projects that support our community’s transition to sustainability.

What are the benefits of attending a smaller high school?

Research demonstrates that students who attend smaller schools are safer, have better attendance and behavior, demonstrate higher achievement and engagement, and are more likely to graduate. Smaller high schools improve achievement because they include a culture of caring, greater student contact with teachers, greater parent involvement, and more meaningful and engaged curricula. Small high schools have been shown to reduce the graduation gap between white and minority students.

How do seniors graduate with college credits?

Through the CollegeNow program at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New Roots students receive college credit for concurrent enrollment courses successfully completed during junior and senior year. Research demonstrates that students who graduate from high school with college credits are more likely to apply to and graduate from a four-year college. This effect is particularly strong among low-achieving students.

Do New Roots students have to meet New York State graduation requirements and take Regents exams?

Yes. Students also meet New Roots graduation requirements, demonstrating mastery of essential knowledge through an online graduation portfolio and a senior capstone project.

What is sustainability education?

Sustainability has been defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” It asserts that environmental challenges are not separate from political, economic, and social challenges. Sustainability education prepares students to organize their communities to promote a long-term, high quality of life for all people and preserve the natural systems that support us.

How does New Roots address the needs of students who struggle or fail to meet academic standards?

Each student’s progress is monitored in weekly meetings with a faculty mentor. Academic difficulties are addressed quickly, and the curriculum is adapted to meet students’ needs.

What is the school’s schedule?

Our school day starts at 9:00 am and ends at 4:00pm with extended class periods that allow teachers the opportunity to get students out of the classroom and into the community. Our school calendar is not substantially different from the Ithaca City School District calendar, and busing is available to our downtown campus. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes focus on core academic subject areas. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students apply academic learning to labs, field studies, and service learning.

Do New Roots programs promote educational success for all students?

Yes. New Roots shares the Ithaca City School District’s goal of educational equity, eliminating race, economic status, and disability as predictors of academic success, and the New Roots curriculum promotes educational equity. Two approaches
that inspired the New Roots model, Environment as Integrating Context for Education (EIC) and Expeditionary Learning Schools (ELS), improve both achievement scores and reports of student engagement.

How is New Roots Charter School governed?

Our local Board of Trustees, with expertise in education, organizational management, and sustainability, reports to the State University of New York, the NYS Education Department, and the State Comptroller. Our Board is responsible for
strategic planning, fiscal and academic oversight, and for hiring and supervising the Principal and Superintendent. The community is welcome at the Board’s monthly meetings.

What's the benefit of attending a small high school?

* Close relationships between students and faculty
* Individualized attention and learning plans
* Founding students' interests and needs drive the development of the school
* Opportunities for everyone to shine!


Do students take Regents tests?

Yes. Students take a core curriculum sequence of four years of science, math, Social Studies and English featuring interdisciplinary connections, problem-based learning and a global perspective. Students have the choice of learning French or Spanish as the foreign language requirement. Students graduate in four years with a Regents diploma and college credits. To graduate from New Roots Charter School, all students are required to demonstrate that they have met all 28 New York State Learning Standards. Through concurrent enrollment, some courses for juniors and seniors are designed to meet standards for Tompkins Cortland Community College. New Roots does not offer AP courses. 


How do I enroll at New Roots?

You may submit an Enrollment Inquiry Form directly from our website (See "Enroll Now" option in the menu above). Once we receive the form, we will respond to you within 24 hours. You may also call or stop in for a paper copy of the enrollment form.


Who are the students at New Roots?

New Roots is chartered by the State University of New York Board of Trustees; any New York State student is eligible to attend New Roots. Approximately 175 students attend New Roots; most come from within Tompkins County. If you live within 15 miles of Ithaca, your home school district will provide busing for you to get to New Roots. All students will have a school-provided T-CAT bus pass, as well.