Growing Roots

INTRODUCTION

In a corner of northwest Denver’s Holly Square neighborhood, on a cool October morning, five, six and some seven-year-olds start lining up to greet Principal Jonathan Hanover in front of Roots Elementary School. Looking up, Jay Anthony, six, sticks his hand out to shake Hanover’s hand. “Good morning, Mr. Hanover.” “Good morning, Jay. How was your weekend?” Jay launches into a story of a football win as Hanover listens closely. After the story ends, Jay walks inside to drop his bag off, say hello with a hug to a few other teachers and heads to breakfast, brought by Revolutionary Foods. Opting for an orange and cereal. So begins Jay’s day. One hundred more kids walk through the doors and follow the same routine, but that’s where the similarity between their days end. Roots Elementary School, which opened its doors for its inaugural year in August, is not interested in students traveling in cohorts doing the same thing all day long. Instead, they have designed a school that is personalized to each student’s unique needs, interests, academic and social goals. “Our motivation for designing Roots was really to crack this code of lack of optimization in early education,” says Roots’ Director of Operations and Innovation Jill Carty. “Lots of educational experts have been trying to crack this holy grail of personalization. And the question was how do you take this traditional model and make it personalized? Our hypothesis was you couldn’t.”