Railroad poses problem for some school locations

Railroad poses problem for some school locations

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school board heard a report Monday about how possible sites for a new Central High School would affect several student populations in terms of transportation.

Regional Planning Commission planner Andrew Levy presented his findings to the board, noting they're based on transportation via car, not bus or walking.

They also don't take into account any development that would occur if the district builds a high school on an outlying site and other businesses follow suit in the area.

Levy noted that the sites at Fourth Street and Bradley Avenue and north of Curtis Road and east of Neil Street scored as the two "friendliest," transportation-wise, for black students, Hispanic students and those with low socioeconomic status.

However, those sites are both east of railroad tracks that many students live west of. Levy said his study didn't account for transportation time added by being stopped by a train.

He said the Bradley and Fourth location scores well based on the criteria the Regional Planning Commission was using to look at the sites, but the railroad "is a point of contention."

"It is an active railway," Levy said. "There's no expectation that it will change in the future," and it could pose safety risks, as well.

Also Monday, the board unanimously approved spending about $60,000 for an analysis and software to rate, rank and compare its school buildings.

The software and analysis, being done by BLDD Architects, will plug in information the district already has about its buildings and will do more research to see how the spaces in which students are taught compare to what the community said it wanted in the district's strategic plan, "Great Schools, Together," said Superintendent Judy Wiegand.

The analysis will give the district factual, objective information about school buildings as it continues to work toward making a plan for what to do with its aging buildings, including its high schools, middle schools and Dr. Howard and South Side elementaries, Wiegand said.

The board also unanimously approved a policy and procedure to create goals for doing business with companies owned by minorities and/or women on construction projects expected to cost $100,000 or more.

The board previously discussed a draft that said the district would use the goals on projects that would cost $500,000 or more.

The procedure says the district will use the Illinois Capital Development Board recommendations for Champaign County as a guideline. The board will recommend what percentage of work on each construction project should be done by minority- and/or female-owned business.

The procedure says the district will communicate its goals when advertising projects for bid, have pre-bid meetings to encourage participation of those businesses and allow for tracking their use throughout projects.

Board Vice President Jamar Brown, who pushed for lowering the dollar amount on the policy earlier this month, thanked district administrators Monday for looking at it again.

It "allows our dollars to go to more businesses in the community," Brown said.

Board President Laurie Bonnett asked school attorney Tommy Lockman to look at how the district can implement a similar policy on non-construction services the district hires out through contracts.

Lockman said that the district's policy committee will look at it but wants to consider which kinds of professional services are required to be bid out versus those that aren't, and what it means to define professional services. There's also no comparable agency to the Illinois Capital Development Board to set guidelines for what percentage of its business should go to businesses owned by minorities and women, he said.

Also Monday, the district approved a budget that says it expects about $120.6 million in revenue and about $138.9 million in expenditures, including about $23.2 million on capital improvements.

At this point, the district is showing it will have a $630,000 surplus in the fund from which it pays its teachers, but Director of Business Services Matt Foster said he expects that surplus to go away once the district settles its contracts with the unions that represent Champaign's teachers and support staff.

The board also reviewed a list of each administrator's salary. You can find it here

Bonnett thanked administrators for putting it on the board's agenda, saying it shows transparency.

"I think that's important, for the community to see we're good stewards of their money," she said.