Growth spurt – Community Roots 7th, 8th grades moving to Grange Hall

March 2022 Posted in Community, News, School

By Stephen Floyd

Community Roots School plans to move its middle school into the Silverton Grange building as part of a partnership to meet the program’s unique requirements.

A move-in date is not yet finalized, but school administrators are planning for the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

Middle school instructor Bridgett Steveson said partnering with the Grange will help support the agriculture-based curriculum her students begin using after elementary school.

“Bigger kids have bigger needs, and if we’re going to have a land-based program we need a campus that can cater to that,” she said.

Silverton Grange

Long-awaited move

Community Roots School, a Montessori charter school in Silverton, has been seeking a long-term facility for 7th and 8th graders after 2016 when it began leasing space from Silverton Friends Church, on Eureka Avenue.

Steveson said there is not only a developmental gap between adolescents and elementary schoolers, but a significant difference in their educational needs. The Montessori curriculum incorporates agriculture-centered learning in 7th and 8th grades, and the plan after moving into the church was to find a separate facility for older students.

They initially tried to partner with GeerCrest Farm & Historical Society, just south of Silverton, which offered hands-on education in a homestead environment. But before plans could be finalized, the farm ceased its educational program in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then last year Steveson saw a Facebook post about the Grange potentially making its building available to a homeschool co-op. The arrangement fell through because of internet limitations at the building, so Community Roots School reached out to explore options.

Help with upgrades

The school has since been working with the Grange and Marion County to bring the building up to standards needed for a school program. The Grange even received a grant for renovations including upgrades to utilities and internet.

School Administrator Christen Kelly said they are continuing to jump through regulatory hoops, but the biggest barriers such as a conditional use permit have been crossed. If progress remains steady, they expect to move into the building by September.

“As far as I know, I don’t think there’s another program like it at all in the Silver Falls School District and the Silverton area,” she said.

Working with the land

Once in the building, students can apply their agriculture curriculum through Grange programs such as the community garden, located on-site. Steveson said students will help with upkeep and maintenance and assist with community members who use the garden, many of whom are Spanish-speaking.

“[Students will] broaden our language and cross-cultural connection through mutual passion of caring for the land,” she said.

Other Grange programs such as their seed exchange, and different fundraisers during the year, will be opportunities for students to apply what they learn.

“Their goal as a Grange aligned pretty well with ours as a school,” she said.

A ‘vibrant’ part of the community

Though the middle school will meet full-time at the Grange building, it will still be available for other activities outside of school hours. Stevenson said she hopes this partnership will help highlight the Grange’s role in Silverton and help the middle school “truly, fully come into its own and become a part of the community.”

Kelly said she expects the partnership will support students in “a holistic and vibrant way.”

“We’re the only Montessori school here in Silverton and having this partnership is really going to be beneficial to the students as they get older,” she said.

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