North side looking likely for new Central
CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school district has narrowed its list of potential Central sites to six, which are all located north of University Avenue.
The sites are:
— North of Olympian Drive, just east of Prospect Avenue.
— North of Olympian Drive, just west of Prospect Avenue.
— Southwest corner of Market Street and Olympian Drive.
— North of the T-intersection of Interstate Drive and Neil Street, east of the Ashland Park subdivision.
— North of the interchange of Interstates 57 and 74, west of Mattis Avenue and south of the High School of St. Thomas More.
— East of Interstate Research Park and between Olympian and Interstate drives.
Patricia Avery, the president of the Champaign County NAACP, said she needs to look more carefully at the narrowed list of sites before she forms opinions about how she feels about them.
"I know that there's not going to be any perfect place," she said, and while the current Central is in a good location, she believes, it's also landlocked and lacks the learning spaces students need.
"It's a tough decision," Avery said. "We know it's something they've had to deal with for a very long time. I think it's one that's time has come."
She thought the Country Fair shopping center had been the most centrally located site on the district's long list, but she realized it might not be feasible when she saw the extensive remodeling going in to a new grocery store coming there.
Arlene Blank, a former Champaign administrator and school board member, said she's glad Country Fair is out of the running.
She said she hopes the school district ends up choosing most centrally located of the remaining sites so that development can occur around it.
The board announced its short list late Monday night after an executive session. The school board will next meet Dec. 2, and the goal is to take the list down to three sites by meeting's end.
The school board could decide on a final site at its Dec. 9 meeting.
School Board President Laurie Bonnett specifically mentioned at Monday's meeting some reasons two sites that were in the board's goal boundaries of being between Interstate 57, Interstate 74, Springfield Avenue and First Street were taken off the list in open session Monday evening.
Those sites included Country Fair and one just south of the Interstate 74 and 57 interchange.
The latter was taken off because of an Illinois Department of Transportation safety study, and because of a water main running through the site that would have be relocated at a significant cost.
Country Fair didn't have the acreage to meet the school district's needs, would require demolition and site remediation and would cause businesses to have to move.
Bonnett again emphasized again that the board is using objective, rather than emotional, criteria when seeking a place for a new Central High School.