Champaign school district takes look at Judah Christian

Champaign school district takes look at Judah Christian

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign school district officials are looking into buying the Judah Christian School building.

Superintendent Arthur Culver toured the building at 908 N. Prospect Ave. Thursday, along with more than a half dozen other administrators, an engineer, and Mark Ritz of BLDD Architects, which worked with the district on its unsuccessful building bond proposal.

"That was a quick tour to learn a little about the facility," Culver said. "We took some of our administrative team and walked through the building and took a good look at it. We'll be looking at it again, and at some point, get some board members to look at it and determine whether it's a building we're interested in."

He stressed that no decisions have been made about buying the site.

"We're keeping our options open. I think that's the responsible thing to do," Culver said Thursday. "But based on what I saw today, I'd like to take another look at it."

Judah Christian has about 500 students, from preschool through high school. The size of the freshman class has doubled each of the last two years, and the school is outgrowing the building, said Dan Cole, chief administrative officer.

He has been looking at the Roberson Transportation building in Mahomet as a possible new site for the school. Roberson announced early this year it was selling its operations.

"We could move into that building right now and not move a wall. It's just ideal," Cole said, adding that no move would take place until 2007 at the earliest.

But he said Judah Christian can't buy the Roberson building unless it sells its current one, because it can't afford to operate two buildings. He said the school's foundation president contacted Culver to see if the Champaign school district would be interested in buying the current building.

The school district originally owned it, when it was Lottie Switzer Elementary School. It started as a four-room school in 1927. After 50 years, Lottie Switzer was closed in 1977, when the district faced declining enrollment.

The school district sold the building in 1984 to Dorothy Brumleve of Urbana for $160,000. It was later sold to Judah Christian, which has occupied the building for at least 18 years, Cole said.

He said there has been no discussion yet of the price of the building.

The Champaign school district failed to pass a $66 million building bond proposal in March that would have provided money for building two new schools, building a new Dr. Howard Elementary School, and making improvements to its other elementary schools. Officials have been discussing how to proceed with formulating a new plan for its building needs.

The district's consent decree requires it to add seats north of University Avenue, and putting elementary students in the Judah Christian building would fulfill that requirement.

"We haven't even begun to talk about how the building would be used because we haven't even decided whether we're interested in it," Culver said.

If district officials and school board members decide they are interested, they'll discuss it with community members, he said.

Cole said the building has 75,750 square feet and has had many upgrades since Judah Christian bought it, including new lights and new windows. A gym was added in 1999, with a "theatrical-quality" sound system. An addition added 14 classrooms, office and storage space.

Cole said 22 top-of-the-line heating and air-conditioning units were put in, so the entire building except for the gym is air-conditioned.

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