Unit 4 problem peeks: Centennial's pool

Unit 4 problem peeks: Centennial's pool

Planning to join Unit 4 officials on a guided tour of Champaign's two public high schools between 9 and 10 a.m. Tuesday? You may want to pack a sweat towel, ear plugs and an extra dose of any medication you take for claustrophobia. Parts of what you're about to see could be hazardous to one's health. The tours will be held on Tuesday mornings between now and Nov. 4, when the district hopes a majority of local voters will sign off on $97.7 million to rebuild Central and $51.3 million to redo Centennial. Here's a sneak preview of what you may see:

Centennial's pool: $141,000-plus in maintenance costs over the past 22 months

If it's Monday morning, that can only mean one thing: the chance of an algae bloom inside the district's only competition pool.

Practices have had to be canceled because of it, says longtime Central coach Will Barker. The culprit: a "really outdated" filter system, which isn't fully automated and occasionally runs out of chlorine over the weekend, resulting in an algae bloom Monday morning, he says.

When that happens, the pool must go through a chlorine shock treatment, which puts it out of commission for 24 hours.

"It's just old," Barker says. "It's worn down."

The combined home of the Chargers and Maroons for parts of six decades, the pool has begun to act its age frequently. Since December 2012, it has required $141,146.91 worth of work — from plumbing to filtration — according to a list of expenses shared with The News-Gazette.

Should voters approve the $149 million ballot question in November, about $7.6 million of it would go toward the construction of a new pool, according to architects' estimates. Only this time, it would be on Interstate Drive — at the new Central.

Barker was hoping the district would upgrade Centennial's pool enough to have two in the district. That's not the plan, though. Putting the pool at Central will free up more room for much-needed classroom space at Centennial, Superintendent Judy Wiegand says.

From the alums

Tips for tourists from three Central graduates:

Watch your step in the theater.

"Oh boy," says Kate Myers ('13). "I think my mom had to come in and fix the curtains every other week, and we always had to wear shoes because splinters from the old wood stage were a definite possibility. I think the best part about the theater was the seating. I would be going to listen to notes and sitting down in a chair where the seat was no longer connected — and would fall right off it."

Avoid the boys locker room.

"Just plain nasty," recalls Drew McMahon ('03), a Central sports hall of famer. "Tile floors that looked like they had been there since the '30s and were a permanent greenish-brown from what looked like 70 years of being the same floor. Windows that you couldn't see out of. And there were three shower heads which progressively got more out of whack the farther down the line you got."

Beware of the top floor.

And be thankful Tuesday's highs will be in the low 80s. "Visit any third-floor classroom," dares Will Sensenbrenner ('97), one of the state's top swimmers before joining his dad's Champaign dental practice. "Try to concentrate in that heat." This time of year, the only Unit 4 school without air-conditioning can be toasty later in the school day — classes have already let out early three times.

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):2014 election

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AreaMan wrote on September 01, 2014 at 7:09 am
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So Centennial's pool is costing about $75,000 per year in maintenance, and the solution is a $7,600,000 new pool? $7,600,000 would last for 100 years of Centennial pool maintenance at that rate. Why not upgrade/replace the outdated filter system?

If the school board wants nice things, they should prove they can care for the things they already have.

lga wrote on September 01, 2014 at 9:09 am

Upgrading or replacing the outdated filter system doesn't fix the million or so other problems in the high schools, nor the overcrowding. So, your idea is a waste of money.

SaintClarence27 wrote on September 01, 2014 at 1:09 pm

But he's specifically addressing the pool. It's $7.6M for a new pool versus apparently less than $100K/yr for maintenance. How expensive is fixing the current system/pool versus getting a new one, and how much better would the new one be?

SaintClarence27 wrote on September 01, 2014 at 1:09 pm

And perhaps another potential issue - if it's the pool that's a major issue (and I know that's not the only one), then why not explore a specific athletic facility space rather than a whole new school, and renovate the existing schools? What are the costs/benefits with that?

45solte wrote on September 01, 2014 at 9:09 am

Wow. A pool that requires maintenance. It runs out of chlorine on the weekends, so your hands are tied. Couldn't think, critically, and problem-solve that (beyond a new pool) so that the pool isn't out of commission on Mondays. This article sounds like it's from a high school newspaper. This is not the type of article that will resonate with on-the-fence voters, IMO. The way the tile looks in the locker room bothers a former student? The case of the progressively wonky shower heads should persuade voters to pay tons for new stuff. Shower heads can't be fixed? Wobbly seats can't be fixed? Sounds like a lot of lack of maintenance by Unit 4. Since the plan is to repurpose Central, why not start with the AC over next summer break. I hear that the duct work will not support central AC or something and the cost of putting in new windows to support box units would cost around $600-800K. Doesn't seem like that much anymore relative to what is being asked for in the referendum.   

45solte wrote on September 01, 2014 at 10:09 am

'an extra dose of any medication you take for claustrophobia.'

Really? You equate phobia treatment with downing meds and conflate the crowding issue at Central to the level of phobia-triggering? Maybe this is intended to be parody, which, too, seems inappropriate.

Lostinspace wrote on September 01, 2014 at 11:09 am

When was it decreed that high schools had to have a swimming pool?  Mine didn't; there was a gym and a small field for gym classes.  The whole thing covered two city blocks.  Walked or biked to school.  We went to the YMCA to swim (and bowl) and to the town stadium for football.  I survived.

scm2129 wrote on September 01, 2014 at 11:09 am

I would strongly urge the board to look at where swimmers live.  For an overwhelming marjority of swimmers (both at Centennial and Central), Centennial is a closer pool than the site for the new school.  Asking schools to share a pool will still mean early morning practice for a team.  By only having the pool at the new Central, we are asking parents to drive kids across town, wait for practice to be completed, and then rush home to get ready for work and a get other children ready for school.  Let's have the facility at the site that makes the most sense for those who use it.  


Chip Cogswelle wrote on September 01, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Maintaining a pool the "old way" isn't rocket science. I have years of experience, and all it takes is some common sense steps. Have a trained attendant check the chemistry (pH & chlorine) and make adjustments on off-days. It shouldn't take more than an hour or two per day, max. Since it's indoors, it should be even easier, because you don't have to worry about storms blowing leaves in, or animals getting into the pool.

Even with computer controlled, state of the art systems, a human should be checking once or twice per day.

There is no mention of the pool having structural problems such as cracks. Just upgrade the filtration and chemical delivery systems to modern computer controlled system. This has got to be cheaper than to demolish and rebuild the entire pool.

In the past decade or so, the trend seems to be to neglect maintenance and upkeep until a facility is really a wreck, then ask for money for a completely new one. It's really pathetic when shower heads and filthy tile are cited as major maintenance problems.

BruckJr wrote on September 01, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Why whine about the heat?  Haven't there been students educated in that building (and thousands of others) for a hundred years without air conditioning?

akerr1117 wrote on September 01, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Many people make good points here regarding the pool.

Many I speak with do not debate that a new HS is needed and that Centennial needs updated.  More object to the location of the new Central.  


Lots of PR going into persuading people of the need for a new HS.  

rsp wrote on September 01, 2014 at 6:09 pm

A lot of people would like to see a third high school, maybe a magnet school that would allow all three to stay smaller. Suggestions were made to buy Judea Christian and use it to ease the overcrowding. The BOE keeps saying we don't want three schools but that would allow for upgrades to both high schools for less money and ease overcrowding.

nndsmom wrote on September 02, 2014 at 5:09 pm

This is yet one more reason I chose to live in Urbana instead of Champaign.  Urbana has it's problems, but so far I've been quite pleased with the school district.  I would hate to have to be concerned about the Champaign high school mess.

I'll just sit over here and watch.