Crystal Lake Elementary, A Community Partnership School

By Sherrie Pratt

For more than 60 years, Crystal Lake Elementary has served the Crystal Lake neighborhood in east Lakeland. Multiple generations consider the school much more than a collection of classrooms; it is a second home, where members of their extended family attend and work.

Crystal Lake Elementary, A Community Partnership School, is home to over 400 students ranging from Head Start to 5th grade. Students typically live within a 2-square-mile radius of the school. A true neighborhood school, the vast majority of students live within walking distance of the campus which deepens the sense of familiarity. Students are also playmates, and the parents and community members are neighbors.

In 2018, Crystal Lake Elementary became the first Community Partnership School in Polk County, and its name changed to Crystal Lake Elementary, A Community Partnership School. The five CORE partners supporting the program are Central Florida Health Care, Heartland for Children, Polk County Public Schools, Southeastern University, and the United Way of Central Florida.

Crystal Lake Elementary, a Community Partnership School, follows the model set up by the University of Central Florida’s Center for Community Schools. Crystal Lake now provides various services for students, families, and community members, including an onsite clinic, afterschool tutoring, and many clubs and activities.

The vision of Crystal Lake Elementary, A Community Partnership School, is to provide all students with a safe, consistent learning environment where every student will S.O.A.R.

The Eagles HUB Office

The HUB office serves as the central point of contact for all Community Partnership School information, requests, and referrals for supports and services within the four pillars to support the students, their families, and the Crystal Lake community. Staff housed in the HUB office include the Director and Data/Administrative Specialist. It serves as the primary meeting space for the Community Partnership School core staff provider meetings to bring valuable resources to the school, and administrative tasks.

Eagles Nest I – Expanded Learning

Eagles Nest I serves as the primary space for student expanded learning time and opportunities before, during, and after school. It is here that students participate in after-school tutoring and enrichment activities supported by various community partner relationships to support student’s overall academic well-being and growth.

The programs vary from Club Eagle tutoring, Science Rocks, and Reading & Diagnosis to enrichment programs such as Girl Scouts, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, mentoring, dance, garden club, and the WCLE media team. In addition to the Eagles Nest, other spaces within the school, such as the cafeteria, media center, and classrooms, are utilized to support the variety of programs offered.

Eagles Nest II – Haven Resource Room

The Eagles Nest II – Haven Resource Room serves as the primary space for family, community engagement, and staff housed in the Haven Resource Room. It assists with connecting families to onsite supports and providing referrals to supports and services within the local community. Family and community members come to this room for adult education opportunities, engagement activities, parent meetings, food pantry resources, and referrals to support themselves, their students, and the whole family. Individuals may enroll in activities to support their English language development, personal finance awareness and growth, and fun family crafts and events. They can request health care, emergency food boxes, weekend meals for students, hygiene supplies, student school supplies or clothing, job search, housing, and more. Additional supplies and supports to assist with student needs such as uniforms, shoes, hygiene, and school supplies are in the student services room.

Serenity Nest (Calming Room)

The Serenity Nest is a safe environment for students to calm their brain and body through sensory and technology tools. The Serenity Nest staff assists students in co-regulating using various resources such as calming sensory items, color-changing sequences, kinetic sand, puzzles, and interactive video activities for bio feedback. The goal is for students to learn to be mindful and develop the skills to calm and regulate their brain and body when experiencing challenges. It supports the student within the learning (school) environment, enabling them to function more effectively in the classroom and elsewhere.

Community Health Center

The school-based Community Health Center was established in 2019 and began serving adults and children in May. It initially opened two days a week, but in the fall of 2020, the Community Health Center opened full-time, Monday through Friday, to provide services to more people.
The CHC, or “big clinic” as staff and students refer to it, serves the needs of the students, their families, and members of the surrounding community. The medical facility is located halfway within the fenced grounds of the school to serve the needs of students and staff during the school day and halfway outside the fenced grounds of the school to serve the needs of community members. Quality, accessible primary healthcare services include physical exams such as annual, work, sports, school physicals, immunizations, well-child and well-adult care, vaccines, sick visits, and in-house laboratory testing. Dental, optometry, nutrition, and transportation services are available as needed and referrals for other supports and services.


In February 2021, grant funds obtained by our healthcare core partner, Central Florida Health Care, helped build a playground dedicated to creating an outdoor space to encourage health through physical movement for our students. The playground provides a much-needed safe outdoor space where our students experience movement and play during recess and afterschool activities.

Butterfly and Edible Gardens – Summer Construction

The Butterfly and Edible Gardens are currently under construction for the summer. The after-school Garden Club enrichment program supports both gardens as well as donations from generous community sponsors. Students from Kindergarten through Fifth grade participate in this after-school program to learn about gardening, plants, butterflies, various fruits, and vegetables. With the assistance of school staff sponsors, the students learn to plant, grow, maintain and harvest through hands-on experiences and lessons. Staff and students have developed a unique partnership with a nearby private school, that, through generosity and expertise, assist the school in developing gardens in a bucket. Students can take them home to grow gardens in their own homes and add sunflowers and strawberries to the edible school garden.

STEM Lab – Under Construction

A STEM lab is the newest edition to the academic enrichment space currently under construction at Crystal Lake Elementary, A Community Partnership School. A school-wide STEM lab will prepare students to think critically, solve complex problems, adapt to new technologies, and communicate effectively to various audiences. Through hands-on learning opportunities, students will learn and grow through physical exploration of the world around them. Using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics concepts, students will become better problem solvers as they investigate real-world problems in the global sphere. STEM promotes interdisciplinary thinking, the importance of cause and effect, and teamwork. All students will experience the Engineering Cycle: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, Improve, and Share. The goal is to provide opportunities for students to collaborate and explore while working to accomplish a task that relates to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. By exposing students to the world of coding, robotics, and 3D printing, students will be ready for the STEM challenges that lay ahead of them and prepare them for a career in a STEM field.