How Our Small School Opened and Thrived During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Despite the Challenges

Roots Community School is a private, independent school in Chelan, WA. Roots was able to provide in-person instruction in the Fall 2020 through hard work, creativity, flexibility and abiding by all local guidelines. 


Students sitting on various chairs and spaced out in the park. Each student has their own supplies and seat to allow social distancing

Outdoor Class at the Park

We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, yet things look VERY different at Roots than they did during last spring’s distance education. The students are here, in the building and in the classrooms.  Learning, collaborating, building relationships, forming new friendships and mastering academic concepts. 

Does it look exactly like Fall 2019?  Absolutely not.  But it is not distance education and we are incredibly grateful for that. How did Roots start in-person school and remain in school instead of having to return to virtual education or a hybrid model? 


Consistent Support From Donors and Local Businesses

Two students wearing masks and holding a colorful piece of artwork that was made by all the students in the class and donated to the fundraiser to support their school.

Students showing off The Bears Class collaborative art project made for the school auction.

First we have our donors and sponsors to thank. The successful fundraiser last winter set the school up for success when we had to make fast changes and meet safety criteria. Funds provided more support staff and paraprofessionals. Para-professionals assist students in small groups, allowing the teachers time for direct instruction. The groups rotate so all students have focused time with the teacher.  By keeping groups small, we maintain better social distancing even with a full class. All students are present and working towards their academic goals. We also modified the building to expand classroom space. This again improves social distancing and decreases risk. 

All these modifications and changes didn’t come without sacrifice and cost.  We could not provide full time, in person education without our generous donors. Donations keep tuition rates low so our school can be more accessible to Chelan Valley families.  Our donors have shown up again this year to support Roots students. We are so grateful.


Dedicated Teachers, Staff and Volunteers

Group of students spaced out in the fresh air during school activities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Students Playing Games at the Park. Spaced out but still able to have fun.

The teachers and staff flexibility and creative thinking allowed Roots to open in-person. Nobody was sure what would happen when school started up, so Roots decided to begin the year with outdoor classrooms.  Our school is close to a public park and we could use this space during the day as well as our own property. Teachers set up outdoor, spaced classrooms daily to accommodate students. Young Kindergarten students learned rules and protocols easily as school opened.  Teachers and students used thoughtful reminders as needed.

Outdoor school wasn’t without some challenges. We live in the northwest- smoke from wildfires, rain and wind happen!  Teachers used these struggles to teach and show tenacity and perseverance. What could have been a failure became a lesson. Teachers moved and changed classrooms many times this year. Moving classes is a huge undertaking and typically only happens once-  before school starts in the fall.  If anyone has helped a teacher move, you know relocating all the books they own is a chore.  Staff and volunteers have built character strength and physical strength from frequent rearranging! Part of the Roots vision is to cultivate tenacious learners, so it became a real life, unplanned lesson. Working through difficult situations with a positive attitude is a great way to cultivate tenacity. Eventually school moved all indoors as the temperatures dropped.  The foundation and systems used in the outdoor classrooms transitioned well inside and everyone had an increased sense of optimism that this school year would continue being great.


Choosing Curriculum That Can Shift to Remote Learning

Roots teachers chose curriculum for this year that works in the classroom or online. They designed projects for live instruction with back-up plans for remote teaching. Teachers created plans in case students quarantined or an outbreak occurred. This meant the previous curriculum maps were revamped to accommodate the new challenges. Teachers were willing to do this extra work to ensure student success. Families have different comfort levels about being at school and were given options. Families were able to decide how much they would attend in-person school. Roots has provided in-person and remote instruction. Almost all our students are receiving in-person instruction. Ask any teacher, balancing remote and in-person instruction is not an easy task!


Students Are Part of the School’s In-Person Success

A student in an outdoor classroom holding a colored paper into the rain to allow the colors to bleed and create fun art

Using Raindrops on Artwork in the Outdoor Classroom. Fresh Air and a Mask Break.

Who can forget the students when writing about the success of Roots this year?  Students all over the country have been through a lot over the past year, haven’t they?  Students shifted from classroom learning to fully online distance learning style last Spring. Many of these students have never taken an online course before. Then throughout the summer, they weren’t actually sure what they would be doing when fall rolled in. Regulations kept changing as fall came closer. This increased many student’s anxiety about going back to school.  It’s only natural that there would be some apprehension about school, but students took it in stride. 

Many of our students were also starting at a new school. We can say our students are fantastic and have adapted more successfully than any of us could have imagined. There were struggles and challenges which we expected.  Tuckman’s Group Development Sequence is: Forming, Storming, Norming, & Performing. Students are intentionally guided through these stages to work towards group cohesion. We are happy to say new and returning students have formed one solid community. Students have been flexible, positive, thoughtful of others, and bring such joy and energy into this school!


Trust and Help From Families

Last but not least would be our families!  Roots families have been supportive, flexible, understanding and trusting.  This has been a hard year for everyone, and remaining positive and flexible is a challenge.  Families trusted Roots with their children’s education and safety and we can’t thank you enough for this. Our families truly become part of our Roots community. Once they’re part of this wonderful community we all work toward our shared mission and vision.  Together we can achieve great things!


To learn more about this fantastic school nestled in the beautiful Chelan Valley, find us on Facebook or Instagram Roots_Community_School, schedule a visit, or contact us for more information! Enrollment Information Here.