Under new leadership, New River Gorge Learning Co-Op prepares for September start date

FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WOAY) – The New River Gorge Learning Co-Op is a nonprofit community school in Fayetteville. They are also shooting for that September 8 start date, but their small class size and sometimes outdoor classroom setup puts them in a unique position for a safe reopening. 

Although nothing in today’s world is ideal, having a small school on a 63-acre farm in a pandemic is pretty close to it.

The NRGLC has always had a focus on outdoor learning but new director Glisyn Lewis says being immersed in nature, having this outdoor space with an outdoor cafeteria and the potential for outdoor classrooms will really come in handy when students return.

“All of these children have been sort of plucked from their structure this year, and they definitely need healing. And so we want to make sure it doesn’t feel too immediate and to sort of sudden for them to go right back into sort of a classroom environment.” Lewis said. 

The school has capped their enrollment at 40 kids this year ranging from ages 3 to 12, so there will be about 20 kids in each of their two buildings with small classrooms.

The teachers use Montessori principles which means the curriculum is nature-based and student-led and focuses on the entire child from their academic ability to emotional intelligence.

Lewis believes teaching their students why they have to wear masks inside this year will fit in well with the curriculum.

“It has a very specific place in Montessori in part of the curriculum called grace and courtesy where we talk to the children about how to care for themselves, care for their environment and care for others, so we’ll put that in there, and those will be great lessons on how to show that respect for each other,” Lewis said.

This will be Lewis’ first year at NRGLC as she is stepping in during some pretty uncertain times, but she knows she is stepping into a school with a solid setup for the current situation.

She says the big message this year for her teachers and students will be compassion.

“What I’ve told myself over and over again in this time is no one has it easy,” Lewis said. “A lot of folks have it harder than me, and so I just have to remember that, and I think that if we all can remember that then we can really come out on the other side of this better than we were before.”

Anna Saunders
Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.