History of Grand Ridge
The village of Grand Ridge is located in the north central part of the state, in some of the best farmland in the country. It is in the rural south central part of LaSalle County between the towns of Ottawa (to the north) and Streator (to the south) on Illinois Route 23. The early history shows that the area was an unincorporated settlement called “Livonia”. It was named after the wife of an early settler, Joseph Boyd, when he sold an acre of land to the Presbyterians for $25.00. This name lasted from 1860 – 1871. When the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad put a spur through the town, building a station in 1871, their engineers found a point on a nearby farm to be the highest elevation between Streator and Aurora. Railroad officials changed the name to “Grand Ridge” and the name stayed with the village when it became incorporated in 1891.
The ethnic background of the community was made up of immigrants from Europe during the late 1800’s. Ethnic heritage reflects this with approximately 40% German, 15% English, 12% Irish, 7% Slovak, 4% French, and 4% Hispanic. The remaining 18% is made of smaller percentages of other nationalities. Today’s race reflects a large white population of 97.7% and Hispanic population of 2.7%. The town today is classified as a rural town based on its population of about 519 people (2009 Census).
While there are no major manufacturing facilities in the community, it does provide some services. Local businesses include the bank, gas station, grain elevator, fertilizer company, funeral home, seed companies, cabling company, and insurance companies. The residents look to the surrounding area for employment, dining, entertainment, and shopping. It is also located near large city attractions and opportunities in Chicago, Rockford, Quad Cities, Peoria, and Bloomington (all of these are between one to two hours travel time). Since residents look to these areas for most of these services, Grand Ridge would be considered a “bedroom community”.
The culture of Grand Ridge is typical of rural America. It is based on values of hard work and parents wanting the best for their children. The community has demonstrated a desire to advance and improve education on all levels by having an active Parent Teacher Organization, Sports Booster Club and community members committed to excellence for their school. The community has taken an active and viable role in the technology development of our school by forming the Grand Ridge Education Alliance Team (GREAT Team). “GREAT” has a good representation of community members from a variety of stakeholder groups. Grand Ridge has a low crime rate, with no gangs or drug traffic. Because of this, people feel safe in this community to raise their children.
The area surrounding Grand Ridge provides many job opportunities. These include manufacturing industries, Walter Seed and Mycogen agricultural industries, farming, Excelon Power plant, Quantum Chemical Corporation, Ottawa Community Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital of Streator, and GE Plastics. Based on the 2000 censuses, the educational attainment of people of 25 who have completed high school is 86.9% and completing a four-year college is 12.8%. Median average household income (1999) is $45,000 and median family income is $52,000. Per capita income is $18,287. Families below poverty level are 4 and the individuals below are 32. The average value of the houses in the community is $48,700. The number of people owning their home is 83.6%, while 16.4% rent and only 5.2% are vacant dwellings. In the Village of Grand Ridge there are approximately 212 homes with 201 being occupied by residents (data based on 2000 Census Data).
History of Grand Ridge School
Before public education there was a private school in the area. The Farm Ridge Seminary or Academy was built in 1850 and run by a Yale graduate by the name of Elmer Baldwin. Seven hundred and fifty dollars was the original capital raised through subscriptions, Baldwin gave an equal amount and the land was donated. Students came from as far as Detroit and St. Paul to attend. The seminary wasn’t totally religious and offered other subjects such as science, math, English and music.
When public schools were started in the rural areas of LaSalle County, they were one room school houses with one teacher for all grades. Due to the lack of public transportation the buildings were placed about 2 miles apart. Each school had a name. The names were determined by some geographical feature or by the name of the farmer who owned the land that the county decided to place the school. Yale and Campbell were situated to the east of Grand Ridge, Sunny Ridge to the north, Essex to the west, and Patty Ridge to the south.
The first school building on the present location was built in 1870’s. In 1896 a referendum was attempted to build a new school for the village. It failed and was attempted again in July of 1897. This time the referendum passed and a new two story brick building was built. It was finished in 1898 for the cost of $6,000. It was funded through the issuance of bonds. The old wooden schoolhouse was moved to a downtown location and used by businesses including a business college.
Teachers in the new school taught three grades in each room. Three years of high school were taught at the Grand Ridge School. The remaining senior year would have to be finished at either Ottawa or Streator High School. Music and singing were offered but no school band. There was a playground outside but there was no gym. Students went home for lunch or brought something from home because there was no cafeteria.
The only place for sports in Grand Ridge back then was played at the Odd Fellows Hall. Basketball was played there. Player had to watch out for the three posts down the center. The pillars could really pick the defensive man if he wasn’t paying attention. In 1935 a gym was built near the existing school but it wasn’t connected. The school was remodeled in 1938 and was connected to the gymnasium. The new gym had a stage where students and the community gave concerts.
One notable remembrance of the old school was the time the students went on strike. They disliked a new teacher so much the old students left the school and went on strike for three days. Area papers covered the story. The new teacher was dismissed and the students came back.
The small one-room schoolhouses started to consolidate with Grand Ridge in 1947. Until this time, the three-year high school course was offered. The school district had to make room for the new influx of kids. The high school program was discontinued and based on boundaries, students now had to attend Ottawa or Streator High Schools for 4 years. The Grand Ridge District #95 consolidated with four districts in 1949 and six others in 1951. They were one-room school districts surrounding the areas of Grand Ridge. The following year, three more districts consolidated. It became clear the school was to small and needed to be expanded. In 1957, new construction was completed, and the older section demolished. The new school had a cafeteria and was connected to the gym. However this wasn’t large enough and so another wing was added in 1963 forming a U shape configuration to the school. In the early 1970’s the library was expanded. Four new classrooms were added to the west wing in 1988. Today’s current enrollment warrants discussion of additional building construction.
Today (updated 10/19/2011)
Grand Ridge Community Consolidated School District 95 has an enrollment of 328 students attending from Special Ed Pre-K to 8th grade. The district spans 110 square miles and is mainly made up of farmland. Because of the large district size, 75% of the students are bussed. The district operates six busses and contracts the services of Illinois Central Bus Transportation.
The racial and ethnic backgrounds of the students attending our school reflect the people that settled here in the 1800’s. The students are: 92.5% white, 2.3% black, 2.9% Hispanic, 1.4% Asian/Pacific Islander, .03% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 1.2% Multi-racial. The average numbers in Illinois schools are 51.4% white, 18.3% black, 23.0% Hispanic, 4.1% Asian/Pacific,0.1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, .2% Native American and 2.8% Multi-Racial.
In the 2011 School Report Card, students whose parents are receiving public aid, or delinquent children being supported by foster homes with public funds, or are eligible to receive free or reduced lunches is 26.8% compared to 48.1% in the state of Illinois. The attendance rate is 96.1%, mobility is 10.1% and chronic truancy is 1.2% compared to 94%, 12.8% and 3.2% respectively for the state. The number of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students are .6% at Grand Ridge and the number of students having Individual Education Plans (IEP) are 13.8%. The state has 8.8% students with LEP and 14% students with IEPs.
The school employs 32 certified staff members, 12 non-certified staff and two administrators. The teacher’s average number of years experience is 16 years with 82.1% having a bachelor’s degree, 17.9% of the teacher’s have a master’s degree or above. All students are taught by teachers that are highly qualified. The pupil/teacher ratio is 14.2:1 (state 18.8:1) and pupil administrator ratio is 173:1 (state 211.3: 1).
Our operating cost for the district/school in the 2009-2010 year is $3,039,196 and revenue was $3,234,682. The money from the local property tax is 58.9%, 6.4% from other local funding, 21.3.8% comes from the state (General State Aid and other state funding) and 10.6% from the federal government. Our operating expenditure per pupil is $8,706, which is below the state average of $11,537.
This year the district failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year. It is our first time. It has been determined our continued annual growth of 2% will not keep us on target to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The district will not reach 100% of students meeting or exceeding on the math and reading ISAT by the year 2014. Even though it is an unrealistic goal, the district will continue to work toward growth in student achievement. The district used data analysis shows the need to focus on Reading Comprehension and Specific Reading Strategies with attention to extended response questions. In the area of mathematics, we will to focus on Measurement and Number Sense. We are hoping to see growth or improvement in both areas of reading and math scores.
Our graduates attend two different public high schools in Streator and Ottawa as well as one parochial high school in Ottawa. Students attending these schools have been surveyed and have told us they feel we prepare them for the transition from grade school to high school. Further information about students, school finances, teachers, ISAT scores, and other items can be found in the 2011 School Report Card.