FAQ

The following information will help give you a more thorough understanding of GRS:

How long has GRS been around?
The first students started at GRS in the fall of 2004.  Since then, we have grown to our capacity of 420 students with 7 classes of graduates – over 200 students – a majority of whom have gone on to post secondary institutions.

Is GRS accredited?
Our authorization by the State of Minnesota as a public charter school and Novation Education Opportunities (NEO), our authorizer, give us credentials to grant a Minnesota high school diploma.  As a charter school, we operate as our own school district.  We are authorized by the International Baccalaureate Program as a World School for our 11th and 12th grade program. Currently, there is no accreditation process for Montessori Secondary schools.

How can I contact your Authorizer?
You can contact Wendy Swanson-Choi, Executive Director, at Novation Education Opportunities, 500 Washington Avenue South, Suite 1020, Minneapolis, MN 55415 Telephone: 612-889-2103; fax 612-870-1200; email – executive.director.neo@gmail.com or by US Mail at 3432 Denmark Ave, Ste.130, Eagan, MN 55123

What certification or licensure do the faculty have?
All GRS faculty are state licensed.  All of our elementary faculty are trained Montessori teachers. The majority of our adolescent faculty have attended a 5-week adolescent orientation program with the North American Montessori Teaching Association in Ohio. Others have taken courses with the MN Montessori Training Center or in Bergamo, Italy.  Professional development sessions have focused on Montessori principles, differentiation and other teaching techniques for adolescents. All IB teachers are IB trained.

Who attends Great River School?
While the majority of our students begin in the 1st and 7th grades, we do enroll new students in each grade every year.  Most of our students live within 3 or 4 miles of GRS, but students come from South Minneapolis, Inver Grove Heights, Stillwater and Shoreview to name just a few locations.  Most years, the balance of girls and boys is fairly equal.  Approximately 16% of our students are students of color.

Do most GRS Students come from Montessori schools?
Students who have some Montessori experience enjoy the continuity with the education they’ve experience in the past.  Those who are able to learn to be self directed and work with teachers who are guides rather than lecturers do well.  While not all students come ready to be self directed or motivated to learn, over time they learn that these skills make for a more interesting and stimulating education.  All students have some time to devote to independent work, a time to do their work of learning.  This Montessori concept  is modeled by students who have experience with the Montessori educational philosophy and quickly learned by other students.

How are the test scores?
GRS views test scores as only one method of assessment.  Teachers and administrators use standardized testing as a gauge for developing curriculum and supports for students.  GRS students score above the state average in just about every category.  For the specific testing data, please refer to the Board section of this website.  Click on the Annual Reports (under Board above) for any year to see the results of the MCAs.

Is there a lunch program?
During the first few years of the school, we offered a pre-order lunch program. Currently, a cold lunch program is provided by Done Right Foods, a local food service company.  We anticipate returning to a hot lunch program in the fall of 2014.  We also have hot water and microwaves available for students to heat up items they bring from home.  The Adolescent 1 Cafe Occupation sells pizza slices on Wednesdays.

How do you cover health and safety measures?
Before school begins, a registered school nurse reviews all health records to ensure compliance with state health regulations and compile any student health issues into a document for the faculty.  A majority of faculty responsible for activities and trips away from campus are first aid and CPR trained.  Health and safety concerns are discussed with students before and during all key experiences.

How do students get to school?
Many of our students carpool with friends and neighbors or are driven to school by parents/guardians or another student.  A school bus offers 8-9 stops in St. Paul for elementary students and any adolescent siblings.  Another large percentage take the city bus for which we supply a bus card.  During the warmer weather, a good number of students ride their bikes.  In the spring of 2010, a group of students built a shelter in the parking lot to hold 60 bikes.  It has been well used each fall and spring since it was built.

Why do students go on Key Experiences?
Learning outside the classroom and leaving the “box” behind to be immersed in the world in which we live helps define the Great River experience.  It also distinguishes GRS from other schools.  Our program of key experiences exposes students to travel, service, academic learning through experience and independence.  Working together with classmates, each level of the school has the opportunity for a different experience beginning in first grade.  Students begin to travel away from the campus in 4th grade.  Please refer to the Key Experiences tab under “Why GRS” in the Enrollment section of this website for specifics about the experiences.

Are there any fees at GRS?
Great River School is a public charter school. Therefore by state law, GRS cannot charge any fees.  We do ask for donations to help cover field trips, offer an opportunity to donate to the Annual Fund to support our Key Experience Program, and organize one large fund raising activity each year.

How are parents/guardians involved in the school?
While the main focus of our school is on the students, we do need volunteers to help us deliver our quality academic program. Volunteers work with individual students in the elementary program, help with trip preparations, at recruitment open houses, with fund raising and coordinating parent/guardian meetings.  Volunteers also serve on the GRS Board of Directors.

How can I find out how my student is doing academically or socially?
GRS offers an online parent/guardian portal called Powerschool.  Each family is assigned a secure password so they can view the most recent grades and assignments for each student.  Powerschool is updated as often as possible but open communication with a teacher can sometimes yield a more up to date picture of how a student is doing.  For more annotated information about a student’s progress, parents/guardians are encouraged to talk to a student’s advisor.  Advisors are the first stop for information about a student whether it is questions about academics or social issues.  The advisor’s name is found by going to Powerschool and looking at the name of the teacher during the “Advisory” class period.  Twice a year, students lead their own conferences where parents/guardians and teachers come together to review the progress of the student.  At the end of each semester, grades (for adolescents) and narratives provide a more in depth assessment for each student.

Where do GRS students go after high school?
The majority of GRS students are motivated to learn during their years at GRS, and continue after graduation.  While the majority of our graduates have gone on to post secondary education, some have taken a gap year to explore their interests before going on to college or another institution.  Some of our students go to local 2-year community colleges before going on to a 4 year institution, saving money to do general course work before finishing a bachelor’s degree.  Many others go to both public universities (all branches of the University of MN or state university system and several in Wisconsin) and private colleges. Among the private colleges and universities, our students have gone to Carleton, Augsburg, Carnegie Mellon (in PA), University of St. Thomas, St. Catherines’s, Hamline, Cornell College and University, St. John’s (New Mexico), Naropa University (CO.), Reed College, Columbia University (NY) and many more.

What if my student needs special education services?
GRS offers a strong special education program for those students who qualify with an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Licensed Special Education teachers and Educational Assistants (EAs)at each of the three levels support students as outlined in their IEP’s.  A resource room, where students can work with teachers or EAs is fully equipped with computers and resource materials, providing a quiet place for working alone or with support as needed. As one parent wrote, “…for a charter school especially, and for public schools in general, GRS has a TREMENDOUS SPECIAL EDUCATION DEPARTMENT and support staff!”