ITHACA, N.Y. — New Roots Charter School will be holding an in-person graduation for its high school seniors.

The graduation will take place June 27 at the Ithaca Children’s Garden. The ceremony will also be livestreamed, starting at 11 a.m. There are 23 graduates in the Class of 2020. 

“An outdoor ceremony is a fitting setting for students who have spent much of their time at New Roots learning outdoors,” Michael Mazza, director of community engagement at New Roots, said. “We’re excited that we have the flexibility as a small school to take advantage of this late-breaking development.”

On June 7, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that schools will be permitted to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies of up to 150 people starting June 26. The Southern Tier entered phase three of reopening June 12, and is expected to enter phase four of reopening June 26. 

Other schools in Ithaca have adapted their graduation ceremonies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ithaca High School is celebrating their high school seniors with a virtual ceremony, which included a stage walk at Stewart Park. Ithaca College canceled its in-person commencement ceremony, which was slated for early August, and instead will be holding a virtual ceremony for the Class of 2020. Cornell University postponed its in-person ceremony, but has not announced plans for the rescheduled date.

New Roots, which has approximately 160 students across all four grades, is known for its commitment to environmental stewardship, sustainability and fostering a connection with nature for students. Tina Nilsen-Hodges, principal and superintendent of New Roots, said that holding the ceremony at the Children’s Garden aptly reflects these principles.

“We are so proud of the Class of 2020 not only for their leadership in our learning community during this unexpected period of challenge, but also for the ways that their accomplishments are being recognized by community organizations and colleges,” Nilsen-Hodges said. “They truly exemplify our commitment to growing students for a just and sustainable future through academic achievement.”

Madison Fernandez

Madison Fernandez is a contributing reporter at the Ithaca Voice. You can reach her by email at