Updated: Since you asked ...

Updated: Since you asked ...

Where will the new Central High School be built? What happens to Edison? How about Dr. Howard?

Starting today, we'll take your Champaign schools questions here and provide answers online each week.

TODAY'S ONLINE QUESTION: Why isn't Dodds Park a possibility for the new Central High School?

At 105 acres, Dodds could accommodate two 1,700-student high schools, ample athletic facilities and plenty of parking — with room still to spare.

Just one problem: Dodds isn't on the market, says the president of the Champaign Park District's board. Not now, not in November and not in the fall of 2017, the targeted time for the first day of classes at the new Central.

"No," Joe Petry said. "Dodds is one of our premier, signature parks. It gets tons of usage as a sports and recreational facility. If you're ever out there on a day when kids are playing soccer, you'll see."

Petry made headlines last Thursday when news broke of the big idea he'd pitched to Unit 4 — why not build Central on 36.6 acres between North Prospect Avenue and North State Street, just blocks away from the high school's 79-year home? The land's current inhabitants: Spalding Park, Franklin Middle School and Judah Christian (which plans to move to southwest Champaign in the coming years).

"Can you fit a high school on a 36-acre site?" Petry asked. "You can. It just requires compromises."

But until Petry let school district officials know of Spalding's availability, the dimensions Unit 4 had been working with were much larger:

— 80: Acreage of farmland in northernmost Champaign that the school board agreed in January to purchase from two sellers for $3.2 million.

— 47.7: Minimum acreage required to build on that land the kind of high school Unit 4 wants the new Central to be.

How do they get from 47.7 to 36.6? "You look at going from two stories to three stories," Superintendent Judy Wiegand said Wednesday. "You look at what parking spaces are needed. You look at the number of fields."

One space-saving measure the district will not consider, Wiegand said, is eminent domain of property in the area.

Petry spent about two hours at Unit 4 headquarters Tuesday getting into Spalding site specifics. He left encouraged.

"This time, we were actually kind of putting together puzzle pieces on the site: 'Here's the softball field, here's the soccer field, here's the school,'" he said.

Said Wiegand: "We're looking at it seriously."


Submit questions online at news-gazette.com or e-mail them to jdalessio@news-gazette.com


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