Our kids continue to leverage opportunities through our participation in the Illinois State Board of Education Competency Based Education Pilot. We were part of the original pilot and are 1 of 47 school districts participating in the pilot statewide. As part of the program, our high school students have the ability to earn their Associate's Degree (FREE OF CHARGE) while they are in high school. As a result of our participation and kids willing to accept the challenge, this fall, 30% of our high school students enrolled in college coursework, FREE OF CHARGE. And how did they do? With the results of GAVC college coursework yet to post, thus far, our kids successfully completed 58 college courses with a collective 3.55 grade point average! Yeah, THEY ROCKED IT! Congratulations to everyone working to position themselves for success at the next level! KEEP ROCKIN!
The Chicago Tribune recently studied how various Illinois school districts approached the use of pandemic aid, also known as ESSER funds. The article, With Pandemic Aid Expiring and Most Funds Already Spent, Schools Across Illinois Face a Financial Cliff, highlights the approach taken by a few Illinois school districts. The capital investments we made to help keep kids in school were highlighted. The text from that section of the article is pasted below.
Capital Investments to Keep Kids in School (Chicago Tribune excerpt)
In central Illinois, the rural Williamsfield school district used the opportunity to break from the norm, investing its remaining 80% of ESSER III funds to expand bus routes and electrify its fleet. According to Superintendent Tim Farquer, the investment meets multiple bottom lines — helping to ensure vulnerable students have access to in-person learning and clean air, while saving the district money and addressing climate change impacts that have seen local families left without power for hours, amid more frequent and intense storms.
Mitigating respiratory illnesses that keep kids out of school was already a top goal before the pandemic, Farquer said. “Pre-COVID, our number of kids who were asthmatic was steadily on the rise,” he said.
Asthma is the leading cause of health-related school absences, causing 1 in 2 Illinois students to miss at least a day of school, the Illinois Department of Public Health wrote in its 2015-2020 Asthma State Plan.
“We all recognize that in-person learning is the best option and we want kids to be in here working, interacting with their teachers, as much as possible,” Farquer said of the need to eliminate absences.
With the onset of the pandemic, mounting numbers of students had to be quarantined as a result of contact on buses, Farquer said.
“Typically, that mode of transportation is utilized by our most vulnerable population already. Statistically, a lot of those students are already behind and then, many of them were experiencing exclusions from in-person learning that other students who ride back-and-forth to school with a parent, were not experiencing,” he said. “It was increasing the gap, resulting in what I would refer to as inequitable learning loss to a portion of our population that’s already more vulnerable.”
After adding a bus route and electrifying the fleet, “Kids are spaced out on the buses, for a shorter period of time and none of our drivers or students will be breathing in diesel particulate matter,” Farquer said of the district’s primary goal in transitioning from diesel to electric.
“No. 2 is just being responsible stewards of our environment, doing our part to try to lower emissions,” he said. With a separate federal grant, through the Department of Energy, Williamsfield has also transformed its “bus barn” into a microgrid that not only charges its fleet but also produces and stores solar energy.
“We are a school district that’s experienced firsthand the nature of weather patterns associated with climate change,” Farquer said of recurring power outages. “For us to not take any action internally to lower our emissions, and just sit back and complain about the results that we are experiencing of the changing climate just seemed disingenuous.”
That stance has also translated to savings, Farquer said. In fuel costs alone, the district has eliminated about $6,000 per bus per year, he said.
Among efforts to directly address learning loss, Williamsfield expanded social work and speech pathology services. “We tried to do so with folks, very openly and communicatively, in any position, that there could very well be a sunset coming,” Farquer said of the looming expiration of ESSER funds. Federal dollars funded an extra day of counseling per week, which has since come to an end, and increased speech pathology costs, to which local funding has been committed.
Williamsfield’s small student-to-teacher ratios also gave it an advantage in helping the district’s approximately 300 students catch up on some of the learning loss resulting from the pandemic, Farquer said.
“With our size and resources, we’re able to, I think, find those gaps quicker. Logically, we’d like to think we’d be able to close those gaps sooner,” he said.
But, like many districts, Williamsfield hasn’t seen test scores fully rebound. “We’re not back to where we were,” Farquer said.
We are extremely proud to congratulate three of our Outstanding Senior Students, Scarlett Binder, Jaden Doubet, and Sidney Stiers, for being named Illinois State Scholars! Their dedication, hard work, and academic excellence have truly shone through. This honor is a testament to their perseverance and passion for learning! Congratulations to all three and their families! And to all Williamsfield Schools students...keep reaching for the stars! Your future is bright. We can't wait to see all the amazing things you continue to accomplish.
After 45 years, and 732 varsity boys basketball wins, Coach Robert P. Anderson has announced his retirement, effective today. The fact that he coached his last several years in a gym bearing his name says it all. Much will be shared on the impact he has had on our school, our community, and the lives of countless young men. But we think sportswriter Joe Morrissey said it best. As guard "Bobby Anderson" entered his senior year for Western Illinois University, Morrisey penned "Don't bet against him. He has a habit of reaching goals." Amen. Coach A began leading the Williamsfield Bombers boys basketball team in 1979. He has led the RW Cougars since the coop began. For 45 years he has taught young men to pour their heart and soul into something greater than themselves. He influenced young men to demand more of themselves than they ever thought possible. He practiced and preached things like preparation and hustle. He had unwavering expectations and demanded you make yourself vulnerable by taking charges and diving on the floor when the ball was loose. At the end of the day, he exemplified the traits it takes to make a difference in the world. He didn't just talk the talk. He walked the walk. And now, after 45 years, as Coach Anderson would say, it's on to the next play. Good luck Coach Anderson! We thank you. We love you. And we wish you the best! GO COUGARS!