Champaign schools' building plan not yet final

CHAMPAIGN – Under intense deadline pressure, Champaign School Board members are reviewing building options in order to design a package for voters to consider in March.

They meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday – two days before the deadline to submit referendum proposals for the March 21 ballot – to hash out that final plan, and negotiations about what's in and what's out are likely to continue right up to the meeting at 703 S. New St.

Unit 4 group's list of priorities raises concerns

CHAMPAIGN – School board members Monday voiced significant concerns about district building priorities on a list drafted in December by citizens' committee members.

And they're on a tight deadline to agree on language for the building referendum that would pay the bill: the proposal must be completed by the end of the day Jan. 17 to make it on the ballot for the March 21 election. Board members scheduled a 7 p.m. meeting that night to take action.

Unit 7 sixth-graders moving up next school year

TOLONO – This year's Unit 7 fifth-graders have some big changes in store for their next school year.

Early this year, work is starting on a new wing of Unity Junior High School, a $1.3 million project that adds six classrooms, a special-education room and a common area to the 3-year-old school.

Crews complete repairs at Allerton Public Library

MONTICELLO – The Allerton Public Library in Monticello was scheduled to reopen at 9 a.m. today following the completion of renovation work.

The library closed in mid-December while work crews completed repairs to the ceiling of the building at 201 N. State St.

Bids comes in under budget, allowing added features for new building

CHAMPAIGN – Bids for the new $29.4 million Champaign Public Library have come in lower than projected, allowing the library board to go with some building features that had been dropped to stay within budget.

Library Director Marsha Grove said that when the bid packages were opened earlier this month, they cumulatively came in about $1 million under estimates, though she did not have exact dollar figures.

Four-year Parkland effort a success

CHAMPAIGN – Parkland College's four-year fundraising campaign will conclude Dec. 31 with about $14 million in pledges, double the amount planners expected to raise.

President Zelema Harris, who will retire from the college in June, said that's an upbeat way to wind down her career. But Harris doesn't take credit for the success of the campaign that started in 2001.

Board OKs contract for new school superintendent

MAHOMET – Keith A. Oates will bring energy, enthusiasm and "amazing potential" to his new job as superintendent of the Mahomet-Seymour schools.

The Mahomet-Seymour school board Monday unanimously approved a three-year contract with Oates, who will begin his new job July 1, replacing retiring superintendent John Alumbaugh.

Emphasis on reading is starting to pay off

CHAMPAIGN – David Bales said success sometimes comes slowly in fourth-grade reading class, but when it happens, it can be amazing.

"Some students get all the way through high school without discovering the joy of reading, but our class had a chance to experience that discovery," said Bales, a teacher at Westview School, where reading skills have become a priority.

Unit 4 school plan met cautiously

CHAMPAIGN – Dori Walker's three Dr. Howard students will have moved on by the time a new school would be built there, but Walker is glad to hear the plans for the school.

"Dr. Howard is so old and so cramped," said Walker of Wednesday's facilities committee decision to put the school on its $68 million priority list. The list calls for the construction of three schools: one at the Dr. Howard site, one on the north side of the city and one in Savoy.

A team approach to improving behavior

CHAMPAIGN – The numbers tell the tale.

This year so far, 29 Champaign students have been expelled from their home schools. That's almost two students a week since school started late in August. Last year, expulsions numbered 31 for the entire year.