November 2022 – ETAC Community School Spotlight:
Meeting Needs, Building Trust
A spotlight on Edwards-Knox Central School District (EKCSD)
A small rural school district, located in the northern tip of New York State, the Edwards-Knox Central School District has been a community school for 4 years. It has a total k-12 student population of 512.
Jennifer Hotaling, Community School Site Coordinator at the Edwards-Knox CSD, has been in her role for approximately three years. When she came on board, during the midst of COVID, Hotaling remembers the needs were immediate. Edwards-Knox hit the ground running and implemented services where they were most needed: a food pantry was opened, and with ¾ of the student body qualifying for free lunch, lunches were provided. Hotaling and Edwards-Knox staff also liaised with members of the community to ensure working parents had safe childcare for their children who were home during online learning.
Hotaling is a connector. Edwards-Knox’s community school strategy manifests in the services and programs she uses to successfully engage students and their families. Last year they started a student employment program. This year, Hotaling manages several 11th & 12th-grade students who are able to work part-time during their free periods. These students are paid employees of the school who work alternating days so as not to interfere with their academics.
Featured this past summer in the Watertown Daily Times, EKCSD has opened a community food pantry in partnership with the Food Bank of Central New York. Not only are students and their parents able to freely shop in this vital community resource both during and after school, students often ask Hotaling if they can help her in stocking the shelves. In addition, Edwards-Knox CSD offers a community clothing closet that is also open to students and their families.
The abovementioned services and others enable EKCSD to successfully monitor and address issues of chronic absence. Hotaling shared a touching story: When a student was identified as being chronically absent from school, Hotaling connected with the student to find out why he wasn’t coming to school. He showed her his shoes – the soles were literally falling off. He asked if she would glue the soles back on. Instead, Hotaling helped him order a pair of new shoes via Amazon. Not long after, the student’s younger brother also came to Hotaling and asked if she could help him get new shoes as well. The Edwards-Knox CSD recognizes when students’ needs are met, they will thrive academically.
Coming up are plans for a Wellness Fair (along with mental and physical health, workshops in financial health will also be provided). All of EKCSD’s services and programs are put into action due to its community partners including the United Way, health organizations, churches, The Lions Club, the Fire Department, banks, along with social service organizations.
In closing Hotaling shared, “Our administration is amazing and wonderfully supportive. We say ‘Yes’ and then we figure out how to do it. If it’s good for the kids – it’s good for us.” To find out more about the Edwards-Knox Central School Community Food Bank, which features both food and personal care items, check out this video featuring Hotaling and Superintendent Erin E. Woods.
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