outside of clinton house decorated with new roots school banners

New Roots Charter School Announces 2020 Reopening Plan

New Roots Charter School will offer a hybrid plan of instruction tailored to student interests and needs in the 2020-21 school year, Superintendent Tina Nilsen-Hodges announced today.

“Our hybrid model will blend quality remote instruction with safe in-school learning experiences and outdoor fieldwork and community service projects. With a schedule and academic calendar designed to orient students to the rhythms of college and career, we can design unique pathways through the fall semester tailored to students’ interests and needs, with the opportunity to redesign the spring semester as needed.”

The school’s reopening plan, developed in accordance with New York State Department of Health guidance, involves no more than 50% of New Roots students learning in the Clinton House facility at a time, affinity cohorts that group students with similar academic and elective interests and requirements, and a new enrollment cap for optimal safety. Students will attend classes in person two days per week, learn remotely for two, and focus on outdoor, place-based class projects and electives on the fifth day of the week. Cohorts will attend classes on either the first or second floor exclusively, and will be organized into three crews with similar elective interests.

“Developmentally, adolescence is a sensitive period for the development of personal identity in a social context,” said Nilsen-Hodges. “We are thrilled to be positioned to offer our young people an opportunity to continue to work on developing the professional social skills so critical to success in college and career, while expanding their ability to navigate online social environments.”

Located in the heart of downtown Ithaca since 2009, New Roots Charter School is a tuition-free public high school of choice open to students who reside in any school district in the region. The number of students enrolled in 2020-21 will be strictly limited to ensure optimal safety. There are currently a limited number of seats available in 9th and 10th grade and a waiting list for 11th grade. Interested families and students can visit the school website for more information and to reserve a seat.

The school’s success during closure this spring due to COVID-19 bodes well for fall. “100% of our students have been engaged with school this spring,” the school’s Dean of Students Jhakeem Haltom said. “Students whose education might have otherwise been derailed are staying the course.”

New Roots Charter School was designed to grow students for a just and sustainable future through academic achievement. Nilsen-Hodges said, “Now more than ever a New Roots education is relevant, providing critical preparation for college, career and life in a time of global transformation.”

Rising senior Savannah Gonzalez and her mom, Sabrina Draffen, agree. Draffen said, “Academic success is fueled by mentors, teachers and active students. Savannah has found her voice since becoming a part of the New Roots community. Upon finding her voice, she found the strength and drive to work harder to improve her academic performance. New Roots has paved the way for Savannah to challenge herself, and she has done so successfully, and this can be seen by her academic success.”

In preparation for the fall semester, the New Roots faculty participated in a professional development consortium gathering in late June called Teaching Our Cities, led by Common Ground Charter High School in New Haven, Connecticut and funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. A founding member school, New Roots is one of six high schools in the Northeast selected to participate as leaders in developing curriculum that focuses on the places where students live and learn, focusing on environmental stewardship and social justice issues. Projects for Fall 2020 will focus on outdoor learning and career and college exploration.

“New Roots teachers have developed innovative ways to engage students in classroom conversations in both the live and remote learning environments,” said Michael Mazza, director of community engagement. “As a father of a New Roots student, I am grateful for the positive impact our teachers have had on my daughter’s learning experience.”

The school’s hands-on, interdisciplinary curriculum, which features the development of critical “soft skills” of leadership and decision making, has impacted the development of 9 graduating classes to date since 2009. The school has had an impressive track record of student achievement in college and chosen career paths.

Rosemary Glos of the New Roots Class of 2016 is one recent example. Glos graduated from Cornell this spring in the top 1% of her class, recognized as a Presidential Scholar. She was also one of just four Cornellians to be awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award.

New Roots Charter School was founded during the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development to engage young people in academic experiences that would prepare them to be community and business leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs in an era of economic and social change resulting from the global climate crisis. “During this era of global pandemic one decade later, the value of a New Root education has never been clearer,” said Dr. Jason Hamilton, Founding Chairman of the New Roots Board of Trustees. “The achievements of our alumni are a beacon of hope in these challenging times.”


NRCS 2020 Reopening Plan


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For more information, contact Michael Mazza, director of community engagement at New Roots Charter School, at mmazza@newrootsschool.org.