Town hall set on location for new Central High School

Town hall set on location for new Central High School

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school district is hosting a town hall meeting later this month to talk about possible sites for a new Central High School.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 30, at the Mellon Administrative Center, 703 S. New St., C.

The meeting will include a panel of community members who will talk about concerns relating to the sites and questions submitted by other residents.

"It's a community discussion," said school district spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart, and the panel members will be able to share their own thoughts on new Central sites.

"(Superintendent Judy Wiegand) has reached out to a number of community members from different organizations to participate," Stuart said. "Some invited panelists were part of the (Future Facilities) steering committee."

The names of the panel members will be released next week, she said.

Those attending can submit questions and comments in person, and those who want to participate can also submit questions through the school district's Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can find those at http://www.facebook.com/unit4schools and http://www.twitter.com/Unit4Schools.

Champaign school board members will be there, but will not run the meeting "in order to encourage organic discussion amongst the panelists," according to a news release from the school district.

"As the board looks to purchase land for a new Central High School, we understand that the decisions we make will impact our community for the next 100 years and beyond," said school board President Laurie Bonnett in the district's release. "We are hosting a town hall meeting in order to provide an opportunity for community discussion on this topic. We want to hear what factors the board should be sure to consider when choosing a new site."

Last year, the school district hired public engagement firm DeJong-Richter to gather community input on the school district's aging facilities.

The firm's findings, as well as recommendations from a steering committee that was involved in that process, are available at http://futurefacilities.champaignschools.org.

The committee's recommendations also included renovating and adding on to Centennial High School and South Side Elementary, building a new Dr. Howard Elementary and renovating the current Central building to accommodate Edison Middle School and a "career preparedness high school program."

The school district has money set aside from the 1 percent school facilities sales tax to buy land for a new high school, but not for its construction or the other recommendations made by the steering committee.

Depending on the timeline the board chooses, the committee recommended asking voters in an election to pay for all the recommended construction and renovations, which would cost about $193 million. That would increase property taxes about $250 for each $100,000 of assessed value.

A slower timeline, which was the steering committee's 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 later 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.

Board members had varying opinions of the recommendations and timelines when they discussed them in May.

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