- By Michael Mazza
- Around Town
New Roots Charter School will proactively transition to entirely remote learning for one week after the Thanksgiving and winter breaks, according to Superintendent Tina Nilsen-Hodges.
"We want to plan thoughtfully for a safe and healthy transition back to our learning schedule after the holiday breaks," Nilsen-Hodges said. "Realistically, we can anticipate higher levels of illness and absence following the holidays based on historical trends. This year, both the stakes and the stress levels are higher due to the pandemic."
Based on scientific understanding of COVID-19 infection, school officials anticipate that the vast majority of people who would have been exposed at holiday gatherings will have symptoms by the first day back to in-person instruction, and will therefore not return to school until they have been tested and are symptom-free in accordance with the school's safety protocols.
"We are a small school and blessed to be able to operate safely and well in these challenging times," Nilsen-Hodges said. "Every student and staff member is screened before they enter the school, including temperature checks, and any person who is exhibiting symptoms of illness must have a negative COVID test prior to their return to school."
"New Roots students have been attending hybrid classes this fall," Nilsen-Hodges said. Students who need entirely remote instruction for health reasons have participated in live classes through video conferencing platforms. The school has taken advantage of what Nilsen-Hodges called the "silver lining" presented by the pandemic by offering an increased number of elective courses focused on outdoor learning this fall.
She said that while the decision to focus on remote learning during a week of transition back from holiday breaks was made primarily based on safety, she saw other benefits as well.
"Families are often stretched thin during the holiday season, financially, emotionally, and in terms of time," she said. "A week at home to reset will be supportive of everyone's ability to re engage with learning in productive ways during the transition."
Students will follow the same academic schedule Monday through Friday, with all instruction conducted online via video conferencing platform as it was when all instruction was remote at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Nilsen-Hodges said New Roots teachers engaged in extensive professional development in the spring and summer to learn to use educational technology and design engaging, active learning experiences for remote instruction.
"Another benefit of this format is that all students, those attending remotely and in person, will have a shared experience, creating stronger collaborative relationships in their classes moving forward."