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Waverly School District gets $2.75M federal grant for new STEM job training center

(Waverly, NY) – Waverly Central School District has received $2.75 million in federal funding to transform the vacant Chemung Elementary School into the Chemung Center For Innovation to give student hands-on STEM job training for in-demand jobs in the Southern Tier.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

The funding was secured by U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer as a part of the bipartisan omnibus spending package for Fiscal Year 2022. Schumer said this project will bolster the workforce of an underserved rural area of the Southern Tier by teaching students skills needed for good-paying careers in the region’s workforce.

“Four years ago, our school team sat at a table and looked at attendance, graduation rate and discipline issues. The picture was gloomy,” said Dr. Eric Knolles, Waverly superintendent. “We needed to do something different …something more. Our children needed to see they could build, manage and create. We needed to get out of the classroom and into the community.

Eric Knolles / School Superintendent

“This has led to many partnerships including business, government, and private citizens. The infusion of aid from Senator Schumer will allow us to buy the materials and continue this work by teaching clean energy technology, developing agribusinesses, and building transportation simulators. Our goal is to graduate kids who know academic content and can apply it to their community. The only people coming to save the economy of the Southern Tier are the children raised here. There is no other answer.”

Schumer explained the proposed Chemung Center for Innovation will be an inquiry and work-based learning program at the school where students will be enrolled for half of the day to get hands-on job training and experience for in-demand local industries in the Southern Tier and upstate New York. Areas of focus would include everything from clean energy to transportation technology to agriculture and HVAC systems.

The Center will operate out of the abandoned Chemung Elementary School, which closed in 2016. The school plans to partner with local businesses and employers like CVS, NUCOR, Lockheed-Martin and other Southern Tier industries to bolster the curriculum offered, ensure they are meeting local workforce standards and boost students ability to gain bountiful employment upon graduation from high school.

Waverly Central School District has been actively working to bring the former Chemung Elementary School out of mothballs,” said Jack Wiiki, M.S.E.E. and MBA, Innovation Team Member and Community Member. “It is now cleaned up, functional and hosting a few technology classes to plant the seed for our students. With these additional funds, we can move further, faster in leveraging this nearly 32,000 square foot facility to become an emerging technology education center that will not only benefit Waverly students but other students in our region.”