Crystal Lake Elementary Making Strides as Polk’s First Community Partnership School

Crystal Lake Elementary Making Strides as Polk’s First Community Partnership School

Students and families at Crystal Lake Elementary

It will soon be showtime at Crystal Lake Elementary.

At their holiday party this week, students unwrapped a gift for the school: a large inflatable screen that will help make future movie nights possible on campus.

The Citrus Center Kiwanis Club sponsored Thursday’s party for the school’s 470-plus students. The group donated the movie screen as well as other gifts for the school, including snow cone and popcorn machines, and various outdoor games and equipment.

Students and families at Crystal Lake Elementary

The movie screen was inspired by a survey of students, parents and the community as a whole. They wanted the school to regularly host special events to bring people together. The school has already begun “Crafty Eagles” each month where families can make craft projects.

Movie nights will become just one more way that Crystal Lake Elementary is meeting the needs of the local community. The school has a health clinic, growing food program and a variety of opportunities for children and adults to continue learning throughout the day.

Students and families at Crystal Lake Elementary

Crystal Lake Elementary, A Community Partnership School continues forging relationships with civic groups, local businesses and public agencies as it enters its second year as Polk County’s first “community” school.

Under this concept, the school is more than a place for academics: It’s a hub for students, their families and the surrounding neighborhood to access education, healthcare and social service resources.

“People want to be connected,” said Andrea Hagan, Crystal Lake’s community school director. “This is a place where children, their families and the entire community can go to get their needs met, or learn where such help is available to them.”

Some of the core partners who are making the Community Partnership School a reality are Central Florida Health Care, Heartland for Children, Southeastern University and United Way of Central Florida. Polk Vision works closely with partners to align resources to support the students, families and residents of the Crystal Lake community.

“We are so thankful for these partners, and the many ways they are supporting the academic, social and emotional needs of our students,” said Kristan Fowler, Crystal Lake’s principal.

The most visible change to the school has been the installation of a community health center on campus.

In May, the clinic began serving students and local residents. So far, the clinic has seen more than 650 patients for preventative and routine medical services. Some services include physicals, flu shots, and diabetes screenings.

The clinic recently added a third day of operation to its weekly schedule, and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Hagan said the clinic is just one of the school’s growing projects that are impacting many lives.

Health clinic at Crystal Lake Elementary

More than 340 students are participating in 18 different types of expanded learning opportunities before, during or after school. Students have access to tutoring in reading, science and math. Approximately 170 students have become Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts. Students can take chorus, and the Florida Dance Theatre plans to begin dance classes in February.

The school is also offering adults the chance to take finance courses, as well as basic, intermediate and advanced English classes.

A donation from Publix Super Markets, Inc. has helped establish a food pantry for students and their families. Eighty-five students are receiving backpacks filled with food for the weekends through a partnership with One More Child, a faith-based charity. Thirty-three families had Thanksgiving meals delivered to their homes through a partnership with Southeastern University.

“Children who are hungry can’t focus on their studies, and they won’t perform well in school,” Hagan said. “We are glad to see that families of students are feeling more connected and seeking the help they need. They are more comfortable with the idea of the school as the community hub. They will be supported if they share a need for food or other services — the school as the hub is their safe place. Someone will assist them.”

Students and families at Crystal Lake Elementary

The school’s momentum will continue into the new year. The campus will host its first job and career resource fair on Jan. 17 for parents and the community.

Those who wish to offer donations or inquire about partnership opportunities with Crystal Lake Elementary can call (863) 499-2966 ext. 433 or e-mail