Unit 4 board Centennial work

Referendum work continues Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, at Centennial High School in Champaign.

Listen to this article

CHAMPAIGN — Further tweaks to construction costs for referendum projects in the Champaign school district have resulted in additional expenses for Central and Centennial high schools and South Side Elementary but a slight decrease in costs for Dr. Howard Elementary.

On Monday night, the school board voted 6-0 to spend an additional $3 million at Central and an additional $2.69 million at Centennial.

Central’s expenses include $350,000 for upgrades to Combes Gym, $246,000 for operable windows, $115,000 for acoustic wall panels, $75,000 to upgrade an elevator and $70,000 for a scenic projector in the theater.

Centennial’s expenses include $245,000 to replace the wood floor in the existing gym, $186,000 for operable windows, $106,000 for field lighting, $71,000 for a north-end perimeter sidewalk and $46,000 for acoustic wall treatments for the band and choir areas.

Both schools also need more money to abate hazardous materials, pay moving and storage expenses, buy additional furniture for classrooms, fund window-treatment work and pay for career and technical education equipment and signs.

The additional money brings the new grand total for Central to $99.4 million and for Centennial to $74.2 million, according to Elizabeth Stegmaier, the district’s director of capital projects and planning.

But bids for Dr. Howard work that came in lower than expected are allowing the district to transfer $300,000 allocated for that project to South Side.

Capital Projects Manager Sandra Roesler said the money will be used to add a fifth-grade partition wall and window treatments for the addition.

The changes increase the South Side project’s overall cost from $12 million to $12.3 million and decrease the cost at Dr. Howard from $18.1 million to $17.8 million.

In other business

— Superintendent Susan Zola and consultant Guy Cahill provided an overview of the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget to the board.

Cahill said individual operating funds — education, operations and maintenance, transportation, and working cash — individually and collectively will be balanced with the proposed budget.

He said he anticipates property-tax rates will decline by 8 cents to $4.97 per $1,000 of equalized assessed value, mostly due to a decrease in debt-service requirements. He said that means the owner of a $300,000 home in the district will pay $80 less in taxes to Unit 4.

The budget is scheduled for adoption at the Sept. 23 meeting.

— Champaign police Chief Anthony Cobb talked about the police department’s responsibility in complying with a new state law regarding drills focusing on shooters.

“We want to make sure we keep our schools safe for our students,” Cobb said. “We really worked hard with the district employees to try to identify what are things we need to do to ensure our schools’ safety in a tragic attack.”

Cobb said police will be emphasizing the alert and evacuation components of this year’s drill.

“We have to do one a year by statute, but we want to make sure we do it appropriately,” Cobb said.

The board voted 6-0 to approve exemption criteria recommended by attorney Jennifer Smith.

Parents will be able to opt out of having their children participate in the drill, said Orlando Thomas, the district’s director of achievement and student services. All employees will be required to participate.

Thomas said students will be told it is a drill, and the words “active shooter” will not be used.

“Our kids need to know what to do in case something happens,” said school board President Amy Armstrong.


Tim Mitchell is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is tmitchel@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@mitchell6).