3 Central options further detailed

3 Central options further detailed

CHAMPAIGN — Despite news from Landmarks Illinois this week that Central High School and its surrounding neighborhood are now among the "most endangered" historical places in the state, the Unit 4 facility committee is not yet ready to rule out the option of totally demolishing and rebuilding the school on site.

Not until it sees cost estimates and the results of community polls, at least.

At Thursday's meeting, the district's architects from Perkins and Will shared more refined plans for Central: one option for renovating and expanding the current Central, one for demolishing and rebuilding a new school on-site and one option for moving the high school out to the northernmost end of town. Opinions of committee members were split on whether to rule out the option that involves demolishing the current school, despite assurance from the district's construction managers, O'Shea Builders, that demolishing and building new would be more expensive than renovating the current building.

All three options included separate drawings of what Central could look like if it accommodated 1,700 students or 1,500. Architects also shared drawings for what Centennial could look like if it housed 1,700 or 1,900 students, an idea strongly objected to by Central's top administrators, with Principal Joe Williams calling it a big equity issue from both an academic and extracurricular standpoint.

The refined plan for renovating the current Central includes a selective demolition of the northwest corner of the building, replacing it with a three-story, STEM-focused addition that would house science labs, band and choral practice space, art classrooms and a theater. A 160-meter, four-lane track fieldhouse would be added to the north of the existing building and a 260-space parking lot would be added to the north and west of the field house. A pedestrian bridge would be built across Church Street, and Lynn Street would be closed to house a softball field, turf soccer field and 2,200-square-foot outbuilding on the current McKinley YMCA and Christian Science Church sites. Underground parking could also be installed under the fieldhouse.

The plans for demolishing Central and building new are a flip-flop of the expansion plans: the new school and field house would be built on the YMCA and church land, the softball and soccer fields would be built where the existing Central is, and a 310-space parking lot would be added north of the fields. A PE field could also be added where the Burnham mansion currently sits.

The Interstate Drive site drawings did not change. The architects also laid out a plan to reduce the number of off-site practice spaces for Central athletics from 23 to three, after school board President Chris Kloeppel announced the board was in communication with the Champaign Park District about sharing facilities at Spalding Park.

Four additional tennis courts could be added to what is already at Spalding Park, the baseball diamond could be flipped and expanded and a pool and gym facility could be built just north of the tennis courts. If the district went this route, the pool at Centennial would be closed and both high schools, as well as the general public, would use the pool facility. The rest of Central's athletic needs could be accommodated on the South Side Elementary School property: A 100-yard practice field, 10,500-square-foot outbuilding, a 150-space parking lot, a turf football field and a track could be built just south of the elementary school.

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Citizen1 wrote on April 15, 2016 at 9:04 am

Is the purpose of high school to provide sporting events or to educate children?

acylum wrote on April 15, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Why are the two mutually exclusive?  How are sports not an educational entity?  Sports teach teamwork, goal ahievement, following rules, taking directi from a coach (ummm boss) that will be essential in the future working world.  As a parent I would not want to put my children in a school that did not place a value on sports education, as well as art, music, theater and other extracurricular activities.  The world would be a pretty crappy place if it was only math science and writing being taught.