Champaign polling residents on high school site

Champaign polling residents on high school site

CHAMPAIGN — If you're a registered voter living in the Champaign school district, you might be getting a call today asking which site you prefer for the new Central High School.

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The next phase of the district's school facilities plan kicks in today — with telephone polling of taxpayers — Unit 4 Superintendent Judy Wiegand told The News-Gazette on Monday night following a special school board meeting held mostly in closed session.

Wiegand said a research service will poll 400 voters living within the school district's boundaries to learn their preferences for where a new Central High School would go. The options have doubled in recent weeks — from 80 acres of farmland in northernmost Champaign, which the school board approved the $3.2 million purchase of in January, to that site plus a new, much smaller one that stretches from Spalding Park on the east, across Franklin Middle School and to Judah Christian School on the west.

The board will learn the results of the poll during the first week in June, Wiegand said.

Less than three months remain before the Unit 4 school board must decide whether to ask voters to agree to a hefty property tax in exchange for new and renovated schools. The "ballpark figures" Wiegand has cited throughout the process, and repeated Thursday during an extended interview with Jim Turpin on WDWS 1400-AM: $80 million to build a new Central (on the Interstate Drive site), $40 million to renovate Centennial High, and between $15 million and $18 million for a new Dr. Howard Elementary (if the board elects to add that project to the ballot question in November).

District officials anticipate a stream of activity between now and Aug. 17, the state law-mandated deadline for the board to decide whether to ask a ballot question of voters on Nov. 4.

Also happening between now and then:

— Representatives from Gorski Reifsteck and DLR Group — the architectural/construction firms Unit 4 has contracts with — are currently holding discussions with teacher leaders and students at both Central and Centennial, Wiegand said. The goal: to make programming recommendations that would be offered at the two high schools.

— Those recommendations will be forwarded to the school board in time for its June 30 meeting, Wiegand said. The information will be used to come up with a price tag for the proposed work.

"Once they have completed the programming models, they will probably give us the estimated costs at that time," Wiegand said.

— While the district is considering 20-year bonds for the work, Wiegand said that special legislation, if approved by the General Assembly, could allow Unit 4 to use 30-year bonds instead. "It's a possibility," she said.

— The school board probably won't decide whether to include schools other than Central and Centennial in the ballot question until late June or early July, the superintendent said.

Champaign's two public high schools are priority No. 1, Wiegand has said, followed by Dr. Howard and South Side elementary schools.

— Calculation of what's certain to be the big issue for voters — how much their property taxes could go up — won't be known until the first week of July, Wiegand said. "Once we have more information about programming and the costs, we could conduct a second poll of registered voters in July," Wiegand said.

— Then it's on to figuring out the exact wording of the ballot question. That part wouldn't be approved until Aug. 11, the board's final scheduled meeting prior to the state's Aug. 17 deadline.

And if the ballot question is approved by voters on Nov. 4? Wiegand said it would take about a year to design the new and renovated schools, with construction beginning in the spring of 2016.

"We are probably looking at the fall of 2018 before it would be completed," Wiegand said.

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rsp wrote on May 20, 2014 at 9:05 am

How about polling if you think it was stupid to buy land before knowing the voters would pay for the school going there. If Dr. Howard's walls are sinking maybe it should be the first priority? Not football fields?

nessalyn01 wrote on May 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm


alabaster jones 71 wrote on May 21, 2014 at 10:05 am
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How is Judy Weigand supposed to save face at cocktail parties if other schools in Central's conference have an obscene overabundance of athletic facilities and her brand new high school doesn't?  How will John Woods be able to handle the ribbing from other AD's that he only has one measly brand new football field instead of two?  HUH?  Bet you didn't think about that!

pattsi wrote on May 20, 2014 at 9:05 am

As a Unit 4 taxpayer, I have a question based on an article about Unit 116 in today's paper. That BOE is planning 27M in school renovations without raising property taxes. In a previous N-G article, the community was informed that Unit 116 BOE has been buying property surrouding Urbana HS for years for future expansion and in between times has been renting the properties to generate income for the district. So my question--why this huge difference in the planning approach between these two BOE?.

Conspicuous wrote on May 20, 2014 at 3:05 pm
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Forethought and organization?

Those are two things sorely missing from Unit 4.

Champaign Guest wrote on May 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm

I recall that an earlier article about the Unit 116 land banking plan had a person complaining about it. Which I mainly take as evidence that people like to complain.

Conspicuous wrote on May 20, 2014 at 3:05 pm
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RSP: Well now, there's a question, isn't there? And what happens to the land already purchased if the poll shows a preference for the Spaulding Park space?

pattsi wrote on May 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Listen to Superintendent Weigand on WDWS where she states that it will be good to land bank those acres since Champaign will develop to the north. But then more monies will be need to buy the land around Spauling plus the houses. The price tag she mentioned for all that is being explored is over 100 M Listen here

rsp wrote on May 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm

If I remember correctly the property to the north is two plots. One has a clause in the contract saying something about if they don't build within x amount of time the seller can buy it back for the same price. I don't know if it is a required sell at that point or not but by then it should be worth more money. If it's a required sale for lack of use the district just loaned out a large sum of money at zero interest. The other half was an outright purchase.

Champaign Guest wrote on May 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm


"Under the terms of the contract, the Atkins Group "may but is not required to buy the property back for what we paid for it" if construction doesn't start within 10 years, Unit 4 spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart said."


pattsi wrote on May 23, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Someone who knows the north end residents rather well shared the following with me. This piece of information is most important for phone surveys. Needless to say that it is very difficut to get cell phone numbers. Very few people who live in the north end have land lnes. This means that these individuals use cell phones. Phone numbers that are hard to access.A further difficulty is that there is a behavior pattern of changing cell phone numbers rather often. This makes accessing for phone survey purposes a defined population subset virtually impossible. The result is that a phone survey will be highly skewed.