150 Years of Excellence
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|2000||Boys Basketball wins state championship.|
|2001||Harold G. Fearn Elementary Schoolopens on land north of Jewel Middle School. It honors an 18-year superintendent responsible for building a strong relationship with the Fox Valley Park District as well as building new schools and additions.|
|2004||Greenman Elementary School is rebuilt a block north of the former school.|
|2005-2014||Dr. James Rydland becomes superintendent and furthers curriculum advancement and partnerships with the City of Aurora, State of Illinois and Aurora University.|
|2005||Robert L. Herget Middle School opens, honoring a teacher and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum.|
The Transportation Center is relocated from the high school to a site in North Aurora.
The Aurora University Partnership School moves into the new Institute for Collaboration building. “Vision 129 – a Future for Excellence” creates a plan for improved student learning through Powerful Teaching/Learning Processes, Safe, Secure School Buildings, Financial Responsibility and Active Community Involvement. West Aurora’s nonprofit development arm, the A+ Foundation, institutes the Hall of Honor to recognize outstanding graduates working in many fields, such as science, law, medicine, the arts and social justice.
A referendum for an operating rate increase is successful.
|2007||Overcrowding requires mobile classrooms to be added to Nancy Hill Elementary School, Harold D. Fearn Elementary School and McCleery Elementary School.|
Mobile classrooms added to Jefferson Middle School to relieve overcrowding.
Abraham Lincoln School is closed as its neighborhood enrollment declines.
A Pre-K through 12 writing curriculum is implemented.
State of Illinois budget crisis severely impacts revenues.
|2011||District sets new standard in Aurora by instituting free all-day Kindergarten in all schools. Artificial turf is installed at the West Aurora High School stadium to allow all-weather competitions, increased use by physical education classes, and marching band practice. A bronze bust of Sauk and Fox tribal leader Black Hawk (1737-1868) (artist: Gareth Curtiss) is donated and dedicated by the WA Class of 1958.|
|2012||West Aurora High School expands dual-credit courses with Waubonsee Community College.|
Mobile classrooms are added at Freeman Elementary School and Nicholson Elementary School due to overcrowding.
“Pathways to Prosperity” (P2P) program planning enables work to begin on coordinating curricula with needed skills in the community, using input from local businesses and schools. “Professional Learning Communities” encourage peer-to-peer professional education.
|2014-Present||Dr. Jeff Craig becomes superintendent.|
|2014||Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program begins.|
|2015||The community passes a comprehensive $84 million bond referendum. It provides for renovations and improvements at every school in the district, including adding geothermal heating and cooling, upgraded security features, advanced technology, new classroom space, and a total rebuild of Hill Elementary School. Major additions are approved for Freeman Elementary School, Nicholson Elementary School, Fearn Middle School, Jefferson Middle School and West Aurora High School.|
|2017-2018||Newly-constructed Hill Elementary School is opened on the same site as the old school. Major additions and geothermal projects that were approved in 2015 are completed at 11 buildings. The district purchases and remodels a building at 1877 West Downer Place for administration offices. At West Aurora High School, advanced placement curriculum expands and Chromebooks and iPads are purchased for every student. High school enrollment is more than 3500 students and staff numbers 367.|
Mary A. Todd Early Childhood Center closes and students begin classes at the new West Aurora Learning Center, formerly the Dreyer Medical Clinic on West Galena Boulevard. The Learning Center is part of a three-building campus, which includes the administration building and the newly constructed Weisner Family Center for Career Development. Total enrollment in the district stands at 12,316.
did you know
Aurora University has been an important partner with West Aurora School District for more than a quarter century, sharing classroom space and student teachers. Currently SD129 elementary students are able to attend the STEM Partnership School on the AU campus. In cooperation with Waubonsee Community College, West High students are able to take dual credit classes and obtain advanced certifications while still in high school. They make up the largest percentage of Waubonsee Community College enrollment in the region.
Because of its long industrial history and receptivity to other cultures, the city of Aurora had been, nationally, a standout for its ethnic diversity. Today one of West Aurora’ greatest strengths is educating young people whose native languages and familiar cultures are those of 45 countries from 6 continents.
|1901||Fourteen out of 32 district graduates go onto college.|
|1902||For purposes of more efficient tax collection, District 4 is renumbered by the State of Illinois to District 129.|
The first high-school-only building in Aurora, West Aurora High School, is dedicated at Galena Boulevard and Blackhawk Street.
Galena Street School, with two classrooms, is built on Galena, west of the high school.
Oak Street School chemistry lab is destroyed by fire. Students use an empty classroom at the high school.
Seven teachers teach the following subjects at the high school: Science, Drawing, English, History, Math, Latin and Commercial Studies.
Oak Street School has 11 rooms. Principal is Nancy Hill.
South Lake Street School has 5 rooms, principal is K. Thompson.
Pennsylvania Avenue School has 3 rooms, principal is M. Prince.
A. V. Greenman dies. Served 19 years as superintendent and oversaw growth from 18 teachers to 35, and high school enrollment from 80 students to 245.
District enrollment is 1,471 students.
Schools are overcrowded, with an average of 50 students per classroom.
Carlton Douglass becomes superintendent.
|1910||West Aurora High School organizes first PTA.|
|1912||Eight rooms are added to Pennsylvania Avenue School.|
|1913-1915||A.S. Kingsford becomes superintendent.|
Voters approve kindergarten education for 4-6 year olds.
Pennsylvania Avenue School is enlarged again and renamed Illinois Street School.
District enrollment is 1,527 students of which high school enrollment is 331.
|Galena Street School is renamed A. V. Greenman School.|
H. T. McKinney becomes superintendent. West High band program begins.
|1923-1924||James Smith becomes superintendent.|
Oak Street School is renamed Mary A. Todd School in honor of a member of the second graduating class (1871), who was a math and drawing teacher as well as principal.
First Building Trades program in the state of Illinois begins at West Aurora High.
|1926||Following a community fundraising campaign, district purchases farmland for a football field on Galena Boulevard at LeGrande Boulevard. Despite early protests that it is too far out of town, it becomes the site of the high school in 1953.|
1927 Fire destroys Mary Todd School.
Illinois Avenue School is enlarged again and renamed Nancy Hill School to honor the woman who served as principal at both South Lake Street School and Oak Street School.
South Lake Street School is renamed Abraham Lincoln School.
|1929||Joseph Hewitt Freeman School, three months after opening, is dedicated in honor of the 1879-1886 superintendent who later becomes Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Illinois and Superintendent of the Illinois School for the Blind in Jacksonville.|
|1933||District enrollment stands at 2,735 students.|
|1934-1935||Daniel B. Heller becomes superintendent.|
|1934||Mary Todd School reopens after rebuilding.|
|1935-1950||Carl E. Larson becomes superintendent. Economic downtown accompanies World War II. Teachers and students leave school to join the U.S. military.|
|1950-1953||Wayne McCleery becomes superintendent. Post-war economic boom fuels population growth.|
|1950||School District 129 assumes responsibility for North Aurora Elementary School.|
|1952||Ground is broken on September 26 after an 85% approval vote on September 20 for a $395,000 bond issue to build a 10-room addition to Freeman School. The school enrollment is 580 and average class size is 34.|
|1953-1954||John Wredling becomes interim superintendent after the untimely death of Wayne McCleery.|
|1953||New West Aurora High School building is constructed at Commonwealth Avenue and New York Street, adjacent to the football stadium. Former high school building is converted into West Aurora Junior High School.|
|1954-1972||Harold Fearn becomes superintendent and oversees the building or enlargement of 10 schools district-wide.|
The village of Montgomery votes to join School District 129.
Jefferson Junior High School opens in the cornfield north of the high school. West Aurora Junior High School is renamed Benjamin Franklin Junior High School. The football stadium at the high school is renovated with concrete stands.
Wayne McCleery School is built. Named for the superintendent (1950-1953) who oversaw the building of the high school and the renovation of the former high school into the junior high school.
|1960-1961||Addition constructed on the west side of West Aurora High School. Frank Hall Elementary School opens, named in honor of former superintendent (1868-1875, 1887-1890) who presided over the first high school graduation in 1870 and also invented the Braille typewriter.|
|1962||Montgomery School is renamed Grace M. Nicholson Elementary School to honor a graduate of West High who became a long-time teacher and principal in the district.|
John P. Schneider Elementary School in North Aurora opens, named for early settler and founder of Schneider’s Crossing, predecessor to North Aurora.
Gertrude Scott Smith Elementary School opens in Aurora, named for a teacher at Oak Street School and principal of South Lake Street School who later became the assistant principal at the high school (1927) and Dean of Girls there (1933).
George Washington Junior High School opens on the far west side.
|1966||West Aurora High School expands with a field house, larger cafeteria and new classrooms on the north side.|
|1967||Auditorium opens at West Aurora High School.|
|1968||Lucia Goodwin Elementary School opens in North Aurora, named for a math teacher with a 33-year career.|
|1971||Well in advance of federal legislation mandating education for special needs students, Hope D. Wall School for the trainable mentally handicapped opens as a joint venture with East Aurora School District 131, named for a pioneering educator for special needs children.|
|1972-1979||Dr. Frank Brown becomes superintendent.|
Overcrowding requires students to attend high school in shifts and projections call for growth in enrollment. District builds West Aurora High School North Campus and Franklin Middle School at the corner of Edgelawn and Sullivan Road.
|1979-1993||Gary D. Jewel becomes superintendent.|
|1981||West Aurora High School North Campus and Franklin Middle School close as anticipated population growth fails to materialize. Property is sold to the state of Illinois for the Illinois Math and Science Academy, which opens in 1985.|
|1998||West Aurora Blackhawk Sports Boosters creates one of the first Sports Halls of Fame to honor graduates and coaches with high achievements in sports and life.|
|1993-2005||Dr. Sherry Eagle becomes superintendent and initiates partnerships with community businesses and Aurora University (Partnership School for Freeman 4th and 5thgraders).|
|1996-1997||Girls’ tennis wins school’s first 2 IHSA state championships.|
Gary D. Jewel Middle School opens in North Aurora to honor former teacher, principal and 14-year superintendent.
Additions at West Aurora High School are new library, technology center, administrative offices, expanded cafeteria, second fieldhouse, athletic training facility, weight room, greenhouse and classrooms.
did you know
- Leading Edge of the American High School Movement
- The Great Depression
- Early 1900's
- Special Needs Leadership
- Junior High School Movement
- Mid-Century Expansion to Neighboring Towns
- Community Support
At the beginning of the 20thcentury, a new educational idea was born in the nation. It was that all children, no matter their income or abilities, should receive as much education as possible beyond the basics of elementary school. At the forefront of this movement was West Aurora, which built the city’s first stand-alone high school in 1906. Located on Blackhawk Avenue (later Street) and Galena Street (later Boulevard) it was a graceful Edwardian structure in which, initially, seven teachers gave instruction in Science, Drawing, English, History, Mathematics, Latin and Commercial Studies. It served at first as the high school and then later as the district’s first junior high school, then was sold in 1978 and became a private school. Subsequent new owners, unable to develop the building for other uses, virtually abandoned it and it was demolished in 2015.
The economic downturn of 1929-1939 did not preclude the district from building a major addition to the high school in the early 1930s. During that period the federal Works Progress Administration sponsored several murals in West schools, notably the 93-foot-long History of Writing and the Alphabet, by Paul Stoddard, at the high school, as well as 10 or more large and small works in various buildings.
District 129 introduced innovations in education including one of the earliest high school PTAs (1910), the first building trades program in the state of Illinois (1924), and a dedicated football field (1926) that, at more than a mile from the school, was deemed too far out in the country to be useful but in 1953 became the actual site of the high school.
Well ahead of federal legislation (1975) to mandate education for children with disabilities, in 1971 West Aurora established, in partnership with East Aurora School District 131, Hope D. Wall Child Development Center, a school dedicated to children classified as trainable mentally handicapped. The first principal was Hope D. Wall, a pioneering special needs teacher.
Education for learning disabled, behaviorally disordered and autistic students has been offered at every school in the district for nearly 50 years. Services to these students extend to the age of 22 through the Blackhawk Academy transition program.
By the mid-20th century junior high schools emerged as a way to bridge the gap between the basic skills of elementary education and the more advanced programs of high school. West Aurora developed a junior high in 1953, converting the old high school on Blackhawk Street to West Aurora Junior High. Renamed Benjamin Franklin Junior High School in 1958, it was joined by Thomas Jefferson Junior High, also in 1958 and George Washington Junior High in 1964. Other middle schools which followed were Gary D. Jewel Middle School (1998) and Robert L. Herget Middle School in 2005.
In the 1950s, neighboring villages North Aurora and Montgomery joined School District 129, precipitating a sudden increase in student population. New schools added were John P. Schneider Elementary (1964), Lucia Goodwin Elementary (1968) and Harold G. Fearn Elementary (2001). The former Montgomery School was renamed Grace M. Nicholson Elementary in 1962.
In 1970, West Aurora became one of the first schools in the state to create a Sports Boosters organization, as well as to support girls’ athletics. The Foundation for West Aurora Schools (1994) combined with the Alumni Association (2003) to become the A+ Foundation for West Aurora Schools in 2008. Both the Sports Boosters and the A+ Foundation have made financial contributions totaling millions of dollars to the high school and annually honor outstanding alumni through the Sports Hall of Fame and the West Aurora Hall of Honor.
In addition, the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, channeling donations from alumni and community members, and private organizations such as the Dunham Fund, have provided hundreds of scholarships and grants to the District over decades.
|Parents create a subscription fund and hire Angeline Atwater to teach in a one-room log cabin on the west bank of the Fox River.|
Roswell Wilder donates land near present-day Cedar and Lake Street for a larger school building.
|1845||The Illinois Free School Act passes in the legislature, allowing citizens to tax themselves for educational purposes.|
Two-story, two-room Stone School (later Old Stone School) opens on Oak Avenue and SpruceStreets.
The villages of Aurora and West Aurora merge to form the town of Aurora, but the school districts remain separate.
|1861||W.W. Wilkie named Superintendent of West Division District 4.|
South Branch School on South Lake Street near Gale Street is built to relieve overcrowding and better serve children of the south end of town.
Old Stone School is expanded by the addition of a south wing and a third story.
Frank Haven Hall is named Superintendent of District 4. Supporting education beyond the elementary level, he develops an advanced 3-year curriculum and creates a high school on the third floor in 1868.
|1870||First class (5 students) graduates from the high school.|
|1875-1879||L.M. Hastings is named Superintendent of District 4, which has an enrollment of 655 students. There are 8 teachers at Old Stone School and 2 at South Branch.|
|1879-1886||Joseph H. Freeman becomes superintendent.|
|1884||Old Stone School burns down.|
Oak Street School replaces Old Stone in the same location. Two stories, 11 classrooms.
|1886-1887||Charles Riley becomes superintendent.|
Frank Hall is re-appointed as superintendent. Due to overcrowding, students can only attend classes on a part-time basis.
Pennsylvania Avenue School opens, with 2 classrooms, at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Illinois Avenue.
A. V. Greenman becomes superintendent.
South Branch School is destroyed by fire.
South Lake Street School and Montgomery School are dedicated.
There is a fire in the attic of Oak Street School.
First football game between West Aurora and East Aurora is played, instituting what becomes the oldest high school sports rivalry in Illinois.
Eleven Oak Street School students become the first to graduate from a 4-year high school curriculum. District-wide there are 24 teachers.
Kindergarten education begins with a class taught by the Kindergarten Association in an Oak Street School classroom.
did you know
- Settlement Era
- Early Days of Public Education
- Civil War Years
- Early Superintendents
- Rapid Growth in Late Victorian Era
What would eventually become the city of Aurora was founded in the early days of Manifest Destiny, the westward expansion of the young United States. It was a time of great optimism and opportunity. Beginning in 1834, New Englanders came to northern Illinois in a steady stream, attracted by the availability of newly-federalized lands. For these settlers, the education of their children was a top priority. Within two years of their arrival in 1834, private schools had sprung up on both sides of the Fox River. On the west side settlers hired Miss Angeline Atwater to teach 8-10 children in a one-room log cabin along the west bank of the river. Just two years after that, in 1838, Roswell Wilder, who had acquired numerous plots of land in the vicinity, donated a plot for the school near what is now Cedar and Lake Streets. Named Wilder School, it was built and operated with private funds from parents but would soon become the foundation of today’s School District 129. Mural at Old Second Bank downtown Aurora – McCarty’s Mill
In 1845, with the passage of the Illinois Free School Act, when citizens were given the authority to tax themselves for educational purposes, public education in Aurora became a possibility. Later, in 1857, when the two communities merged to form Aurora, the school districts remained separate. The population was growing at a brisk pace and by the early 1850s there were 160 children on the west side needing a place to learn. Although funding was tight, and the project needed both a private loan and help from a state emergency fund, an impressive two-story brick and stone building was erected at Oak Avenue and Walnut Street (now New York Street). It was ravaged twice by fire, and rebuilt and enlarged on the same site. The successor to Stone School stands today, more than a century and a half later, although it is no longer in use as a school building.
TOP: Old Stone School – c 1868, with third floor addition that in 1868 housed the first high school classes taught in the city. Note the picket fence meant to keep wandering livestock off the school grounds. Bottom: Oak Street School, c.1905.
The war, although fought far away from Aurora, brought some difficulties for education in the district. One-third of Aurora’s men left to join the Union Army, including Stone School principal, Mr. Parrington. On a brighter note, the postwar economic boom, beginning in 1865, was immediately felt in Aurora education. The district’s second school, South Branch School, was built on Lake Street near Gale Street, to serve the children at the south end of town. At the same time, Old Stone School received an addition and was raised to three stories.
West Aurora has never lacked for outstanding superintendents, such as Frank Haven Hall, the inventor of the Braille typewriter who established the first high school curriculum (the first students graduated in 1870) and Joseph Hewitt Freeman whose career included leading East Aurora schools, the Illinois State School for the Blind and the department of education for the State of Illinois. Left, Joseph H. Freeman and right, Frank Haven Hall.
With flourishing industries like the Burlington Railroad and many manufacturing businesses drawing in immigrant laborers, and a city growing up quickly around them, population growth in the late Victorian period resulted in continual overcrowding in the schools. Between 1885 (when Old Stone School burned down and was replaced by Oak Street School) and 1891, three brand new schools were built (today known as Hill, Lincoln and Nicholson schools). Lake Street School (now Lincoln) in 1895.
It was during this period, in 1902, that a statewide reordering of the school district system was put into effect to create more efficiency in tax collection. At that time District 4 was renumbered to District 129.