District Spotlight: Batavia City School District (BCSD)
As of March 2021, Batavia CSD had an enrollment of 2,165 students. When you add in out-of-district placements, private school attendees, and homeschooled students, the number of school age children rises to 2,487. The City of Batavia website states: “Batavia is the only city in Genesee County and serves as the County seat with a corporate boundary of 5.2 square miles, serving a population of 15,399 residents.” We are a small city school district, in a rural environment, which is often considered a micropolitan area. Batavia CSD comprises four schools: Jackson Primary School (serving grades Pre-K-1), John Kennedy Intermediate School (serving grades 2-4), Batavia Middle School (serving grades 5-8), and Batavia High School (serving grades 9-12). The district serves a diverse community of students in grades Pre-K-12. Twenty-five percent of students are students of color, 12% of students are identified as students with disabilities, 2% of students are English Language Learners, and 2% of students are homeless. Two out of three students are economically disadvantaged.
Commencing in the fall of 2020, the Batavia City Schools began their initiative of “Batavia Community Schools Equity-Opportunity-Family.” We reached out to key members of our community requesting that they become part of our Community Schools Advisory Board. Our Board is made up of BCSD staff, parents, community members, and local representatives from the faith-based organizations, City Council, Public Library, United Way, YMCA, Youth Bureau, Student Transition and Recovery (STAR), Batavia Police Department, and BCSD Foundation, Inc. We have a Coordinator of Community Schools, who is a lifelong resident of Batavia, a former Batavia Spanish and French teacher, and a veteran Batavia administrator who has held both Building and District level positions. Our District Social Worker is also a resident of Batavia and a veteran employee of the Batavia Schools. Both ladies are very involved in the community and have a finger on the pulse of its strengths and needs.
Historically, community schools have their roots in the progressive education movement of the early 1900s, including John Dewey’s argument for schools as social centers. Over the last century, the vision of community schools has evolved, and the education field now uses various terms, such as “integrated student supports” or “wraparound supports” to describe the underlying approach. Today, there is a growing network of education stakeholders working to advance “next generation community schools.” (Harper, Jonas, and Winthrop, 2020.) Our vision, mission, and logo were designed and developed by our working Advisory Board. Our vision to “build a better Batavia by promoting equitable learning opportunities, cultivating healthier families, and establishing a stronger community” is very appropriate as we embark on our journey.
The Community Closet provides students, families, and community members access to food, clothing, hygiene items, and other educational items.
In August of 2020, we opened our Family and Community Engagement Center (FACE). The Engagement Center is designed to provide a comfortable and inviting setting for families. It is housed in a former kindergarten room at our Robert Morris campus. Some of the features include laundry facilities, computers, seating area, a book nook, flyers and brochures from agencies in the area, and a play area for children. Our Mission is to unite our Batavia community and schools through shared resources, working partnerships, and open, collaborative communication. As of this date, we have 81 partners from all areas of the Batavia community (agencies, clubs/organizations, government agencies, businesses, faith-based organizations, medical services, and others). With their help, we have expanded our new Family and Community Engagement Center to include a Community Closet. This asset provides students, families, and community members access to food, clothing, hygiene items, and other educational items. During the pandemic, access is limited to appointment-only, but we are hoping that soon it will be able to be open for drop-in visits.
Further goals are that FACE will be open to offer instruction, parenting groups, and a variety of enriching and engaging opportunities that will appeal to all ages. We appreciate donations, outside funding, and fundraising. So far this year we have given 565 donations to children. These numbers do not even include our larger events. For example, Warm the Night was held on the grounds of Batavia Middle School. At this event, our District Schools and FACE came together and distributed winter coats, hats, and mittens. Liberty Partnership, GLOW YMCA, Little Free Food Pantry, Community Action and Catholic Charities attended and provided support and information for families. Our School Supply Refresher provided mid-year new school supplies to 250 students.
We recognize that there are six conditions necessary for every child to succeed: early childhood development fostered through high-quality, comprehensive programs that nurture learning and development; a core instructional program with qualified teachers; a challenging curriculum and high standards and expectations for students; and that students are motivated and engaged in learning — both in school and in community settings, during and after school. In addition, the basic physical, mental and emotional health needs of young people and their families are recognized and addressed and there is mutual respect and effective collaboration among parents, families and school staff. Last, but definitely not least, community engagement, together with school efforts, promotes a school climate that is safe, supportive, and respectful and connects students to a broader learning community. We have many ideas to reach our stakeholders.
With our Board of Education’s approval in February, we began a campaign to let the community know we exist and are here to assist. The Batavia CSD Foundation, Inc. has helped us accept donations that meet the criteria for tax-deductible donations. We are very appreciative of all the various donations (366 to date!). These donations range from clothing, to food, to gift cards and to money. We have begun to hold events and activities that partner with others and support our students, their families, and the local community (for instance, free haircuts at local barbers and salons, and free laundry opportunities). We will look back at our six conditions mentioned earlier as a reference and checklist to make sure we are continuing on the right track.
We are so appreciative of our Batavia Community’s support and interest in our Community Schools initiative.
Blue Cross Blue Shield donated hygiene items for us to distribute during a local food distribution event. Over Spring Break, student volunteers helped pack the bags and hand out to community members. Over 316 community members benefited from this assistance.