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New Roots Charter School on schedule to open September 9, 2020

On-site and remote classes at New Roots Charter School will begin on September 9, 2020 as scheduled, Superintendent Tina Nilsen-Hodges announced today.  

“Our facility is ready, with HEPA air filtration, hand sanitizing stations, and classroom work stations with ample physical distance between them. We have the PPE we need in stock. Our faculty is working together this August to adapt our school curriculum to hybrid and remote learning.  We are so looking forward to welcoming students back to school in September!”

Considering the challenges larger institutions face, Nilsen-Hodges said that the school’s small size is a distinct advantage in planning for a safe return to school. “We have ample space for physical distancing, we have been able to secure adequate supplies, and our scheduling challenges are manageable.”

Nilsen-Hodges said that students can choose between hybrid and remote learning options, with about 90% of students choosing to return to in-person classes in September.  

“Only two cohorts of 30-40 students will be in the building on any given day,” Nilsen-Hodges said.  “Cohorts will have distinct areas of the building where they attend classes, and each teacher will be assigned to a cohort.  This is facilitated by the way we schedule classes, mirroring the semester course format used by colleges and universities.”  

Students will take two or three core subjects, one or more electives, and advisory classes called crew each semester, including outdoor learning experiences on Fridays.  Students will have options for concurrent enrollment and AP courses in hybrid or online formats. 

The staff calendar for the year has also been an advantage, Nilsen-Hodges said.  “Our entire faculty attended a virtual week-long workshop in June focused on designing quality hybrid courses with an emphasis on place-based learning with environmental and social themes,” said Nilsen-Hodges.  Teachers also attended a week-long workshop on teaching environmental justice in July offered by the Green Schools National Network, and are currently meeting daily for professional development and planning.

The school’s culture also supports safety and student wellbeing. “Since our inception, advisory groups that support social and emotional wellbeing have provided time and space to establish a strong community culture that reflects our school values.”

“Establishing safety through commitment to wearing masks will be an important aspect of school culture this fall,” Dean of Students Jhakeem Halton said.  “There are a wide range of opinions about masks. Students will have the opportunity to work through their ideas and learn the science behind our school community’s standards for wearing masks to empower health and safety for everyone in our community, as well as protocols for maximizing comfort through mask breaks when needed.”

New Roots also has an advantage when it comes to student health screenings.  “Our students will have staggered arrival times, which will allow us to check the temperature of every student as they come in,” said Dean Haltom.  “Students will complete a home health screening survey prior to arrival and those who have not completed the screening will be screened by the school nurse before entering the building.”

Nilsen-Hodges said that she has assigned her office, located on the first floor in a central location, to the school nurse.  “We want to emphasize that health and safety are of central importance, now more than ever,” she said.  The health office includes an attached isolation room to allow for immediate quarantine of any student or staff member who develops symptoms during the school day.

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

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