School board confirms request for tax increase will wait till fall, defines its search criteria
CHAMPAIGN — After years of debate, the site selection for a new Central High School will take place Monday night.
The much-anticipated announcement will not.
The school district says it will negotiate a contract with the land's seller before revealing the site. Not doing so "would put the negotiating process at risk," Superintendent Judy Wiegand said Wednesday, echoing the board's reason earlier this week for not unveiling which three sites survived the cut from six.
A few more details The News-Gazette learned during a Wednesday meeting with Wiegand and school board President Laurie Bonnett:
— Wiegand expects the school board to wait until next fall's election — at the earliest — to ask voters for a property tax increase.
— The board will seek a site with at least 47.7 acres. According to research the district commissioned, that's the space it will need for a school with 96,000 square feet of core academic space; a field house; an auditorium with balconies; a pool; and indoor athletic facilities, among other things. On the district's wish list for outdoor athletic facilities: two football fields, one of them with a track; two soccer fields — one for games, one for practices; eight tennis courts; two baseball fields; and two softball fields.
— The final site will be decided by how each board member ranks a lengthy list of criteria. The rankings will be averaged to show which criteria are most — and least — important to the seven school board members.
The criteria, which haven't previously been revealed: accessibility to vehicles and emergency vehicles; how easy the land will be to build on; whether it has potential for expansion; whether gas, electricity, water, sewer and data are available at the property line; district transportation costs; pedestrian accessibility; compatible zoning; site clearing; whether any portion of the site is in a flood plain; whether it's located near two major streets; whether it's compatible with adjacent land uses; whether additional storm-water detention areas will be required; whether easements already exist that would make the site difficult to develop; whether road improvements not on the site will be required; and whether the site is near future residential developments.
— Once the site is selected, the school board will allow architecture firms that want the job to submit their credentials. Central students, faculty and staff members also will be allowed to give their ideas for what the new school needs. That feedback will drive both the building's design and how much money the school district asks taxpayers for.