New Champaign Central HS Site Chosen
By Jim Meadows, Jeff Bossert, and Sean Powers
A site on Interstate Drive just east of the Ashland Park subdivision is to be the home for a new facility to replace the current Champaign Central High School.
But getting the money to actually build the school will require voter approval.
The Champaign Unit 4 School Board unanimously approved buying the 80 acre site for $3.2 million at a special meeting Monday night.
Purchase of the land will be done with funds set aside from the county-wide 1% sales tax, plus funds to be raised by the sale of excess property.
But getting money to build the school will require voter approval.
Unit 4 School Board Vice President Jamar Brown says now the work begins to write up a referendum, and engage the community as to why this is needed. He said it’s time for all the stakeholders to get behind the project.
"And it has a been a strain on our community, and a sticking point for our community," he said. "And now that the decision is made, I'd like for our community to come back together, and start to work together on building the referendum, and building this community piece. And it's going to be a nice centerpiece for this community," he said.
If the referendum passes as soon as this fall, Brown said construction could get underway in the next two to three years, and the school would take about two years to complete.
Unit 4 Superintendent Judy Wiegand said there's a lot of next steps to consider, including other upgrades that would be part of the same tax referendum in November.
Cost of the new Central High School is $80-million. Wiegand said voters will also be asked to approve upgrades to Centennial High School.
"(It's) using the standards put forth by the Illinois State Board of Education, that both our high schools are at 103-percent capacity," she said. "For example, (Monday) night the school board presented an action item to an a trailer to Centennial High School because they need additional classroom space as they start planning for the (20)14-15 school year."
In a press release, Community Relations Coordinator Stephanie Stuart states “the Board and Administration will work with the Central students, parents, and faculty as well as community partners to more clearly define the programs the new school would support.”
Stuart also said the school board will present a plan for the current Central High School in the coming months. Wiegand said Unit 4 will likely re-purpose the current Central High School building by combining some programs, and cutting operational costs.
Possible changes could include housing the Family Information Center and Novak Academy alternative school at that University Avenue location.
Wiegand said the Unit 4 school board is committed to updating residents on other upgrades, based on community input. They include work at Dr. Howard and Southside Elementary Schools, and the district’s three middle schools.
The site for the proposed new Central High School was among six possible locations put forward by Unit Four, a list that was narrowed to four in December --- all of them located along or north of Interstate Drive on the far north edge of Champaign.
Brown says the Ashland Park site was best because it the southernmost site of the ones being considered, citing community concerns, and was also available for sale at the time.
He said the new building will comfortably hold the number of students attending a new Central High, noting both Central and Centennial High School are both currently at 103-percent capacity.