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JHS Homecoming 2017

Thomas Clatterbuck



Homecomings are always a big deal. But for Jacksonville High School, this year is even bigger. As part of the Sesquicentennial celebration for the district’s 150th birthday, homecoming involved all of the normal events, and some exciting new ones.

The Football Game:


The football game is always one of the major homecoming attractions. Jacksonville faced off against Decatur’s MacArthur High School. The Crimsons fell to the Generals 13 to 49. This drops the Crimsons down to 0-4 on the season.

The homecoming court was announced during halftime.  For the girls, Chloe Woods, Jacie Coultas, Elysia Moore, Sydney Hembrough were elected to the court, with Daisy Wood being queen.  For the boys, Ethan Karr, Kameron Chappell, Sam Brockschmidt, Avery Dugan were elected, with Bobby Kaufmann as king.



The JHS alumni association set up booths for returning graduates.  They had food, raffles, and special seating for returning graduates.

Another JHS team took the field that evening: the Marching Crimsons under Director Matt Johnson. The show this year features music from Paul Simon. Homecoming was the first full performance of the 2017 show, along with a special performance of “Jacksonville Loyalty.”  The full show is ready just in time for their first major competition of the year next weekend at McKendree University.  Check out the video of the full performance.

Open Houses:

The use of the plural is not an accident. In addition to the open house at the “new” high school, what remains of the old high school campus was also open to the public.

Between 1921 and 1981, 117 used the “old” high school campus. Unlike today where JHS relies on a single building on a daily basis, the old campus had several distinct facilities: the old high school building, Central Office, and the Bowl.

The Bowl

Still in use today,the Bowl served as the gymnasium forthe old high school.  Most commonly used as a sports arena, the giant amphitheater also houses large event like graduation. The Crimsons’ Hall of Fame is found in the upper levels as well, celebrating athletic excellence across the generations.

Five years ago, the Bowl Fund was started by private citizens to help restore the arena.  Since then, the fund has restored much of the building, including the bleachers.

The Old High School

The Old High School was retired from service in 1981. But during its 60 years of service, the building oversaw the largest graduating classes in 117’s history. Today, the interior as been converted into apartments, obscuring most of the original floor plan. Still, there are some areas where the beauty of the original building can still be seen.



Central Office

This building once housed the vocational classes for the old high school.  Today, it serves a dual function: housing the district’s administration, as well as a kindergarten center. This is the last year for the kindergarten center though. The conversion of Turner Jr. High to Jacksonville Middle School took the 6th grades out of the elementary schools, freeing up space for the kindergarteners to return to their home schools. In place of the kindergarteners, pre-kindergarten programs will be using the classrooms next year.


The new JHS building was originally built as Armstrong Junior High in 1971. However, as issues with the old high school building continued to grow, the district chose to upgrade the Jr. high into a full high school by 1982. The Armstrong namesake can still be seen in the science department, with a small shrine to Neil Armstrong.

The changes and improvements to the school are still ongoing more than three decades later. One particularly noteworthy addition is the renovated math lab. An anonymous donor furnished the lab, and getting several classes out of the small closet where they had been held in years past.

As part of the Sesquicentennial celebration, the district also used the JHS media room and green screen to record the memories of the alumni. The video will be featured at the November 11 Sesquicentennial Celebration Dinner at Jacksonville Middle School. Countless alumni came out to support the video project. The final project will need to condense many hours of interviews into just a few minutes. (The full interviews are expected to be made available later).

And of course, you cannot talk about JHS without the eagle.

Closing thoughts

There has been a lot of concern about the future of public education in Illinois this year.  Unlike in some past years, this year’s challenges were very real and very serious.  Yet as the Sesquicentennial celebrations demonstrate, District 117 continues to move forward.  A fun-filled homecoming weekend was just one more example of Jacksonville’s resilience.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.


New Illinois law requires high school students to apply for college aid before graduation




In addition to math, science, reading, and gym class, Illinois high school students will soon have a financial aid requirement to graduate high school.

Every high school senior in the state of Illinois will have to apply for federal student aid before they can graduate.

Lawmakers approved the new law last week. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will sign it.

Under the plan, high schools in the state will be required to have seniors fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and if eligible a state student aid application as well.

State Rep. Katie Stuart says it will be easy for schools and kids, and could help some students get into college.

“This initiative will connect more students to the resources that are already available to help them get education or training after high school,” Stuart said. “But it’s flexible enough that we are not putting up any new barriers to graduation.”

Not all lawmakers are happy about the idea.

Opponents say there’s always a cost when the state requires local schools to do anything. And there’s a question about why all high school seniors need to fill out a FAFSA application.

But state Rep. Mary Flowers, who voted for the plan, said the requirement is aimed at the students who need extra help.

“You assume that all schools have the necessary counselors to take the time to educate the students, as well as the parents, about college and/or other programs,” Flowers told opponents of the plan.

Pritzker says the idea is critical for the state’s schools. He says he looks forward to signing the new law.

Once he does, the requirement will start in the 2020-2021 school year.


Article by Benjamin Yount with The Center Square. For more TCS visit

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LIVE | District 186 school board meeting January 22nd

Staff Contributor



Follow along live with District 186’s school board meeting for January 22nd.

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Illinois educators wary of bill to require metal detectors in every school




image from the Sentinel-Echo

A group of Illinois lawmakers are promoting legislation that would use a combination of state, local and federal funds to put metal detectors in every school in the state, but some school leaders say it’s simply not feasible.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said students in schools should feel safe from gun violence when they’re learning. For that reason, the former teacher filed a bill that would require all public schools, K-12, have students walk through metal detectors everyday to get to class.

“Why is it that no one gets shot inside of Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at O’Hare Airport?” he asked.

The bill would tap into federal funds made available this summer to partially pay for the walk-through detectors, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry, who oversees schools in DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean Counties, said the idea is well-intentioned, but would result in a unfunded expenses for school districts and create logistical problems.

“Who’s going to be responsible for doing those screenings? Are districts going to be responsible for the cost of hiring additional personnel?” he said. “The concept, on the surface may seem like a good idea, but it presents a number of challenges once you dig into it.”

The detectors would have to be run by a trained professional and need regular servicing and calibration to ensure they work properly. Jontry said such costs would likely fall to local taxpayers.

Ben Schwarm, deputy director with the Illinois Association of School Boards, served on a working group with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The law enforcement contingent of the group had a hierarchy of actions that could be taken to “harden” schools from unwanted entry. Schwarm said metal detectors were last on that list.

“It’s just not that effective,” he said. “There’s a thousand things school districts should be doing before they get to that point.”

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit

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