Champaign board hires firm to help plan school facilities' future

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school board approved a $117,000 contract with a firm that will look at local demographics and work with local residents to determine their wishes for the school district's facilities.

The board unanimously voted at its Monday meeting to hire DeJong-Richter to create a plan for the future of the school district's facilities.

The possibilities for the school district's facilities were discussed at length at Monday's meeting, as Superintendent Judy Wiegand presented a list of possibilities for what to do about rising enrollment and aging buildings, including South Side and Dr. Howard elementaries.

Wiegand said this year's kindergarten enrollment is 880 students, up from last year's record class of 805 kindergartners.

The report came from a committee that studied facilities and grade configurations this summer, that included lots of ideas, including perhaps creating a few K-8 schools, a possible magnet program for seventh-graders through seniors and several ideas involving reopening the old Carrie Busey on Kirby Avenue as a school.

Wiegand suggested the school board hear the public's feedback through DeJong-Ricter's work before it makes any decisions about the possibilities.

Also Monday, the school board unanimously approved renaming its alternative high school as the Novak Academy, after late school board member Greg Novak, who died suddenly in March. The school will have a dedication ceremony at a later date.

"To have the opportunity to name this building, this program, after him does great justice to his memory, and I am excited and proud that we are able to do that," said school board member Tommy Lockman.

His widow, Donna Novak, thanked the board.

"He would be humbled," she said.

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