Unit Four Returns To Interstate Drive For High School Site
By Jim Meadows
The Champaign Unit Four school district says it’s back to considering Interstate Drive as the sole site for a new Champaign Central High School.
The school district had considered two proposals to use public park sites. One of them was for the more centrally located Spalding Park, which it rejected. The other was for Dodds Park in northwest Champaign, which the Champaign Park District Board has rejected.
Unit Four Superintendent Judy Wiegand says that leaves the district with the site at the corner of Interstate Drive and Neil Street, extending north to Olympian Drive. That site has been criticized for not being in a centralized location, but on the northernmost edge of Champaign.
But Wiegand says the Interstate Drive site is the best site available.
“Going through the criteria and evaluating all the sites that we have, I do believe it one of the top sites”, Wiegand said. “Certainly, not perfect by any means, but one of the best options that we have.”
Wiegand says the Interstate Drive site is big enough to hold the 35 to 60 acre high school campus the district is seeking, plus land for another facility sometime in the future.
The Champaign Park District had floated the idea of using Spalding Park, along with the adjacent Franklin Middle School for a new high school. But Wiegand said in a letter to the park district that the Spalding Park site would have also required a taller building to make up for limited acreage, and the acquisition of nearby homes and commercial properties and the Judah Christian School campus.
As for the Dodds Park site, Champaign Park District executive director Joe DeLuce says Dodds Park is a “signature” park for the district. He says the park board “reconfirmed” the importance of retaining Dodds Park at its Wednesday, July 23rd meeting.
Wiegand says the school board is expected to vote at its August 11th meeting on a November tax referendum for building the high school at Interstate Drive, and renovating Centennial High School. But she expects persuading voters to approve the question will be an “uphill battle”.
Meanwhile, DeLuce says that since Unit Four is not interested in using Spalding Park as a high school site, the Champaign Park District is moving forward on obtaining grant funding for park improvements. Those could improve a new activity center, playground, splash park and lighting.