Board asks administration for plan on finding site for new Central

Board asks administration for plan on finding site for new Central

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school board discussed a recommendation on what to do with its aging facilities Monday and has asked the school district's administration to come up with a proposal for how to move forward to look for a site for the new high school.

Scott Leopold and Tracy Richter of educational facility planning firm DeJong-Richter gave the school board a recommendation from the district's Future Facilities process.

Member Kristine Chalifoux, who also co-chaired the Future Facilities steering committee, reminded the board that it's the recommendation of that entire committee, which included faculty and staff members, parents and community members.

The recommendation had two options, for the same projects with different timelines. They suggest considering asking voters to approve higher property taxes for the projects.

Both recommendations include building a new Central High School, a new Dr. Howard Elementary School, renovating and adding on to Centennial High School, renovating the current Central building to accommodate Edison Middle School and a "career preparedness high school program" and renovating and adding onto South Side Elementary.

The first recommends doing so by asking taxpayers in the November 2014 election to pay for these projects, which are estimated to cost $193 million. That would increase property taxes about $250 for each $100,000 of assessed value.

Then, the school district should study its enrollment through the construction project.

The school district could use a larger portion of the current Central building to make Edison bigger, and if middle school enrollment projections show enrollment rising to or staying above 2,400 students, the school district could ask for more money in a 2018 election to add on to Barkstall Elementary to make it a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, and to build a new K-8 school. Those projects would be expected to cost $45 million.

The second recommendation would have the school district ask for $139 million in 2014 to build a new Central and a new Dr. Howard, renovate Centennial and renovate and add on to South Side.

That would raise property taxes about $180 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Then, the school district could ask taxpayers in 2018 for an additional $54 million to renovate the Central building for Edison's use and to add onto Centennial.

That would raise property taxes about $70 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Or, it could ask for more if middle school enrollment projections show enrollment rising to or staying above 2,400 students, and the school district decides to build a new K-8 school or add onto Barkstall to make it one.

The recommendation also asks the school board to consider giving itself 90 days to find a site in the central part of Champaign for a new Central High School.

Chalifoux asked administrators to come up with a plan for how to proceed in asking developers to identify the site, possibly by creating a request for proposals asking for specific information, and possibly creating a way to rank possible sites.

Richter suggested perhaps hiring an objective individual to help, possibly at a fee unrelated to the sale price of the property.

"I love choices," said board President Laurie Bonnett said. The board will discuss the administration's proposal in June.

Board member Stig Lanesskog suggested board members give their feedback on whether they had enough information, what they personally found to be the top priorities and the timeline in which they'd like to see action happen.

He and board member Scott MacAdam both said they have enough information, see the district's high schools — replacing Central and renovating and adding on to Centennial — as priorities and are comfortable with the November 2014 timelines.

Chalifoux said she preferred the first option, and as it puts together a detailed plan, to include the idea of K-8 schools as a possibility in 2018.

Board member Ileana Saveley said she has enough information. Board Vice President Jamar Brown said he supported the first option, as well.

Board member Lynn Stuckey said the only parts of the recommendations she'd support would be renovating and adding on to South Side, if it included making the school a K-8, and renovations at Centennial. Stuckey said she wasn't happy with the Future Facilities process and would have liked to see more discussion about three traditional high schools in Champaign. She doesn't support renovating the current Central High School to house Edison Middle School.

Money spent on that, estimated at $35 million, would be better spent adding to elementary schools to make them K-8 schools.

The school board also hired Bill Pritchard as principal at Bottenfield Elementary. Pritchard, currently the principal at Lincoln Elementary School in Rochelle, is a Savoy native and a Champaign schools graduate. He will replace Matt Foster, who will this summer become executive director of business services for the district.

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Homeboy wrote on May 14, 2013 at 5:05 am

Enough with raising property taxes. Any time money is needed they want to use R.E. taxes as an open checkbook. Just  got my new tax bill and its plenty high. 

rsp wrote on May 14, 2013 at 6:05 am

I don't recall them going to this much planning and asking the voters in so much detail what we wanted the first time around. Not that they really cared. Or were going to stick to any plan. We passed a sales tax to pay for these things, and that's when these things should have been decided. The school board spent the money it had without regard for the needs because they didn't start with a long term plan other than to raise taxes again. 

Mastadon-27 wrote on May 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Well, how many homes will be re-assessed to a higher value in 2014, before the general election vote, on either referendum?  Just wondering.