We all just lived through the most unusual year of our lives. Each of us had different expereinces and saw the world in different ways. We all know there were many challenges and heartaches along the way. Nonetheless, many amazing things happened at St. Francis/Holy Ghost Catholic School, through the grace of God, during the past school year. The following highlights some of the most significant blessings we experienced during the 2020-2021 school year.

COVID Reopening Plan – The Reopening Plan was prepared by the St. Francis/Holy Ghost Catholic School COVID-19 Response Team and outlined our plan for reopening our school (PK-8) in August 2020. This plan was aligned with the Diocese of Springfield 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Reopening Schools. Components of the plan were formulated using guidance provided by the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Public Health, Jersey County Health Department, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our efforts in developing this plan focused on providing a safe environment for students to learn, faculty to teach, and staff to provide support to our operations. Great consideration was given to ensure all students can access ALL we offer at St. Francis/Holy Ghost Catholic School; above all and uniquely, an environment where all children can develop a personal relationship with God and grow in their faith.

In-Person Five (5) Days a Week – The faculty and staff of St. Francis/Holy Ghost School were excited to see our students returning to school to grow in their FAITH, ACADEMICS AND SERVICE. Regardless of the challenges and uncertainty we encountered this year, we promised to provide an environment where faith formation, love for one another, and service above self helps all children develop a personal relationship with God. We have been one of the few schools who provided in-person instruction, five days a week.

Technology Integration – St. Francis/Holy Ghost Catholic School received a $30,000 grant from the Tracy Family Foundation. Thanks to this grant, St. Francis Holy Ghost School was able to purchase 12 Newline Flat Panel Smart Boards for their classrooms, outfitting our classrooms for the 21st century. Even with the pandemic, our students have thrived. We are excited about all the new and exciting things going on here at SFHG. With the addition of these 12 Newline boards, every classroom will be outfitted. We have also updated over 100 Chromebooks. The technology availble to our students and teachers is state of the art technolgy and is unsurpassed by any school around.

Reading Interventions – An emphasis was placed on providing interventions at grades K-4 during this school year. Title funds are federal monies that are meant to supplement, not replace, existing state funding for education. By accessing Title funds (a federal grant that provides funding for students who have documented deficiencies in reading and/or math), we were able to purchase the Leveled Literacy Intervention Program(LLI). We are also able to utilize District 100 to provide professional development for our teachers , including workshops and individual coaching. An additional kit was purchased at the end of the school year to support 5th grade students next year.

MAP – The Diocese of Springfield implemented new assessments durin the past school year. MAP was introduced to students in grades 3-8 this school year and replaced the Iowa Assessment, which has been administered in previous years. MAP, or the Measure of Academic Progress, is a computerized adaptive test which helps teachers, parents, and administrators improve learning for all students and make informed decisions to promote a child’s academic growth. During three separate testing windows, fall, winter and spring, students participated in MAP testing sessions to assess Language Arts, Reading, and Mathematics. In addition, 7-8 grade students were assessed in Science. One of the goals of this assessment is to pinpoint specific skill areas of strength and areas which need further reinforcement for both individual students as well as in our overall curriculum. These tests are tailored to an individual’s current achievement level. This gives each student a fair opportunity to show what he or she knows and can do. Because the computer adjusts the difficulty of the questions as the test progresses, each student takes a unique test. We will continue to provide professional development on test preparations and interpreting the data.

The Five-Year Strategic Plan completed the Goals and Objectives portion of the plan. This culminated over a year and a half of work completed by many stakeholders. Currently, we are developing strategies to accomplish the goals and objectives. I have met with the Marketing/Enrollment Committee to begin writing action items to support the goals and objectives in that domain. Throughout the summer and into next fall, action items and strategies will be developed in all domains.

SFHG Playground Project kicked off on Easter weekend. Initially started with a single donation, the project grew in scope over our month-long fundraising effort. As of today, we have raised over $78,000. We will be receiving the final quote for the playground to be installed at the Holy Ghost site for consideration this week and plan to finalize the project by next week. This will afford us time to order and install the new playground by August 15.

Additional highlights of the 2020-2021 school year include:

A very successful Harvestfest netted $130,000 to support our schools. A special thank yout to Cahirperson Laef Lorton and the countless number of parents and parishioners who made this event a huge success.

The sacraments were beautifully administered in-person to many of our students and a plan to Confirm all 6-8 grade students in the fall is in the works.

The St. Baldrick’s Event raised over $10,000. Thank you to Lisa Wargo for organizing this amazing event.

The end of the year All-School Mass was one of the highlights of the year. To see all of our students and staff sitting together in Mass after a restriction filled year was beautiful!

The unsung heroes of the year are our teachers and staff, along with our Pastors, Fr. Hyland and Fr. Marty, who worked tirelessly without many breaks during the days, weeks and months to ensure our students received the best spiritual and academic experience possible. The countless unseen acts of service and the work performed by our team made the year seem to flow perfectly. There were many struggles along the way; in the end, everyone went above and beyond to support our students!

A special thank you must go out to our parents who provided much support an prayers throughout the school year. Without our parents, this amazing school year would not have happened. Equally, the entire parish family unified in prayer to ask for God’s protection and strength to sustain us this school year. To no one’s surprise, God delivered in a big way, again!

Lastly, our students showed more resilience that any of us could have imagined. They continually made adjustments and kept growing spiritually and academically, desipte the restrictions and changes to how we do school. Their expereince will only make them stronger as they navigate the road to adulthood!

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in the coming year. Remain in prayer!