Beyond the Blueprints: The all-new Dr. Howard Elementary

Beyond the Blueprints: The all-new Dr. Howard Elementary

A new, occasional series looking at what's ahead for Unit 4 schools, by News-Gazette education reporter LYNDSAY JONES. TODAY: The all-new Dr. Howard Elementary School.

After Central ($87.1 million) and Centennial ($63.3 million), the most expensive Unit 4 project taxpayers green-lighted in 2016 is the $16.1 million demolition and construction of Champaign-Urbana's oldest active school building — Dr. Howard Elementary (est. 1910).

This week, the school board took a significant step in prepping for construction, which is slated to last from August 2018 to May 2020. It approved RATIO Architects' estimated budget for construction: $2,786,418 in indirect costs and $14,983,634 in direct expenses, including big-ticket items like demolition ($370,747), sitework ($819,496) and, with a price tag of $1,298,254, all audio-visual, IT, security, furniture and equipment needs.

These are the last few months that Dr. Howard students will occupy the building at 1117 W. Park Ave., with its funky layout and 'cafegymatorium,' as staff refer to the space where meals have been eaten, PE classes held and musicals staged. Come fall, everyone will move into the Columbia Center for two years leading up to the fall 2020 grand opening.

Here's more about what's on the way:


No one will miss the hodgepodge of stairwells, levels and entrances created by multiple additions over the years at the old school. The new one will be two stories tall, which architects say was preferred over a three-story option. On the second floor will be the higher grade levels, special-education and flexible-education spaces open to teachers and students, as well as collaboration spaces outside some of the rooms.


To solve current traffic congestion issues, architects are considering a design that would only allow bus traffic in one way and out one other way. To pick up students, buses would travel down University Avenue, turn into the bus loading lot, then exit again via University. Architect Ed Scopel said the number of buses they're shooting to cue up is seven. Parent loading and unloading would occur via Park Avenue.


Architects say the gym is positioned "strategically" near the school entrance so that a security gate can block off the rest of the building when visitors come to after-hours events in the gym. To the right of the gym, architect Jessica Gilbert said, the music and art rooms are elevated on a 24-inch platform that helps the music room double as a stage.

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sanjuan wrote on March 28, 2018 at 7:03 am

The lead to the story puts the cost of Dr. Howard at $16.1-million.  The cost approved by the school board this week and as detailed in the second paragraph is $17.77-million.  The price tag has increased as the scope of the original project increased.

The drawing, and earlier discussion with the board and architects, depicts parent drop off on what used to be James Street, not Park.

Details matter.


rsp wrote on March 28, 2018 at 12:03 pm

It says the next biggest project after Central and Centennial approved in 2016 was Dr Howard so that was the cost estimate then. That doesn't mean the scope of the project increased, it could be price increases.

sanjuan wrote on March 28, 2018 at 3:03 pm

The scope increased.  They are including extra classrooms not in the plan presented to voters.