During the pandemic, Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS) knew its students couldn’t succeed academically if their basic needs weren’t being met. When in-person learning wasn’t an option, the district moved quickly to ensure every student received the supports they needed. BCPS distributed more than a million meals to students during the school year. And they made a $1.5 million investment in technology to provide every student with a device to guarantee they could all engage in remote learning.
Innovative programs created in partnership with organizations throughout the Battle Creek community helped students achieve good academic results, despite the learning disruption caused by the pandemic. BCPS achieved a kindergarten readiness rate of just over 50%, more than tripling the 2013 kindergarten readiness rate of 15.5%.
Experts and professionals from the Battle Creek community engaged students in the district to help them understand how what they learn in school can apply to their goals for the future. BC STEM Innovation Center, a middle school launched in year two of the transformation, hosted virtual conversations with experts in relevant careers. One conversation provided students with the opportunity to learn about careers in space exploration and aeronautics, when they spoke with an employee of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory who worked on the Mars Perseverance Rover. Students also learned about opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry when they met with a Pfizer employee working in COVID-19 vaccine development.
In addition, a state-of-the-art healthcare simulation lab opened at Battle Creek Central High School (BCCHS), the only one of its kind in West Michigan. WKKF, in partnership with BCPS and Grand Valley State University, leveraged dollars from a Marshall Plan for Talent grant to invest in the design and construction of the lab, with cutting-edge equipment, technology and supplies, including hospital beds, stretchers, tables, lifts and high fidelity medical dummies.
“It helps you a lot because you can be hands-on, touching the patient, doing things you would really do in real life,” said Olivia Seitz, BCCHS student. “I want to do something in healthcare. So that’s going to help me in the long run, because I’m going to have experience with it.”
In 2017, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced an unprecedented commitment to Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS): a $51 million, five-year grant to transform the district to achieve success for every student.
The 2020-21 school year marked the fourth year, and the district continued to make bold progress in implementing changes to ensure students received everything they need to thrive.
Additionally, BCCHS offers a Career Academies program, in partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning, to connect students to career-focused pathways in which they engage in interest-based and experiential learning. Students in the health care and nursing pathways of the Career Academies program train in the healthcare simulation lab. Students over 18 can gain full Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certifications through the program, so when they graduate they are already climbing a career ladder in healthcare.
“(You get) skills … we just did an interview the other day – writing resumes – getting these practices for how it will be in the real world,” said Cameron Daniels, a BCCHS student and career academies participant. “They’re getting resources and getting community members to participate. It’s like lining up dominoes for the students.”
Find out much more about the ongoing transformation at Battle Creek Public Schools at ChangeStartsHereBCPS.org.