Page 10 - Scene Magazine 46-02 February 2021
P. 10

Education Scene
    Battle Creek Public Schools Catalyzing Community Transformation
Transformational change is happening throughout the city. Even as the commu- nity continues to fight and recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the revitalization of Battle Creek is in full swing, with new construction and “coming soon” signs throughout the city.
Creek’s plans for a new facility and the new industrial space development on Watkins Road.
Strong and thriving schools are crucial to home property values and neighborhood communities. Milestones like the 2019 reopening of Fremont Elementary as Fremont International Academy, an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Candidate School, and the opening of Battle Creek STEM Innovation Center, an immersive STEM middle school experience, are
all part of what some describe as major potential for attracting new residents and home buyers.
Many new success stories in the city are coming from its schools as well, as part of the ongoing transformation of Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS). Four years ago the district made a commitment to implementation of a top-to-bottom transformation focused on improving outcomes for the students and families of the Battle Creek community. With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s landmark grant in 2017, the district has implemented a host of changes, including adding new curricula and programming, expanding individual- ized education, opening two new magnet schools, bringing Career Academies to Battle Creek Central High School, and improving teacher support and com- pensation. These district transformation efforts at BCPS are not happening in isolation — they are happening in con- cert with the economic revitalization of Battle Creek.
Business leaders say schools have a huge role to play in this revitalization, as businesses moving to the area eye the tal- ent pool and appraise their ability to attract young families to live and work here.
After being hit hard by job loss through plant closures and the financial crisis, unemployment in Battle Creek remained high as overall population numbers declined and empty storefronts became a common sight downtown. But Battle Creek is a city on the rise. While unemployment remained firmly in the double digits throughout the 2010s, it is now down to around 5% as of November 2020. Thanks to increased investment and economic revitalization, Battle Creek is open for business.
“We work with our community to shape the district’s offerings with the goal of developing young minds and talent, because we know our students are the future of our community. They are the people who will improve our community as they settle in or return to Battle Creek, buy homes, frequent local businesses, and seek fulfilling careers.” Carter said.
The potential transformation of Northwestern would support broader re- vitalization taking place in the Washing- ton Heights neighborhood, and planned upgrades for Springfield would help continue its transformation into a service learning school, building stronger con- nections between students and the local community.
A Community on the Rise
Battle Creek Central High School (BCCHS) and their partner Ford Next Generation Learning worked with the community to shape the BCCHS Career Academies model and offerings accord- ing to local needs: what jobs are avail- able, where industries are growing and the biggest needs in the economy and workforce. Beginning with the class of 2022 during their freshman year, Career Academies launched in 2018 and will be fully implemented for grades 9-12 by the end of next school year. BCCHS Career Academies are offering students small learning communities where they receive instruction tailored to their interests while developing the skills they need
“This bond is about more than brick and mortar,” said Dr. L.E. Johnson II, chief diversity officer at Southwestern Michigan Urban League. “Having the opportunity to offer premier educational experiences for our students lays the foundation for a vibrant, economically thriving community for generations to come.”
Investment in the commercial and ed- ucational infrastructure of Battle Creek has spurred business and industry growth throughout the city. In the downtown area, the former Heritage Tower was redeveloped and reopened in 2019 as the Milton in the heart of the city. In 2021, Battle Creek will see the development
Schools, businesses, community groups, charitable organizations, and residents across Battle Creek are all working together toward a common vision: to transform the community for the better.
of two new hotels, more affordable housing, and the grand opening of sev- eral new restaurants. Industry continues to grow as well, with Bronson Battle
to excel in school, the workforce, and beyond.
“I’m excited by all the progress we’ve seen, and even more excited for what’s still to come,” said Gibson. “We are proud to call BCPS a close partner.”
“I’ve been speaking with business leaders who are looking to relocate to the area and they’ve been impressed with district programs such as Career Academies, which is creating a pipeline of young talent ready to build their lives in Battle Creek and contribute to the community,” said Shabaka Gibson, vice president of retention at Battle Creek Unlimited, a business and economic de- velopment organization working to spur growth in Battle Creek.
“As a realtor based in Battle Creek, it’s been exciting to witness the district’s transformation these past few years,” said Talia Chaplain, a local Realtor at Re/Max. “Schools are a bright spot in our com- munity once again. I’ve been able to tell folks moving to the area what BCPS has to offer and it seems like there’s more to add to the list every year.”
BCPS and the Community: Partners for a Thriving Future
Another such boon to Battle Creek may be in the works as the community consid- ers a bond proposal this May to transform Northwestern and Springfield middle schools, with Northwestern becoming home to a visual and performing arts acad- emy and Springfield undergoing crucial building upgrades and improvements.
BCPS superintendent Kimberly Car- ter says that partnership with organiza- tions, leaders, and community members throughout Battle Creek has been key to informing the transformation plan.

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