Monday, January 22, 2018

Open House Q & A

Thanks to those who came to the January 10 Open Houses hosted at Central and Centennial. If you missed the chance to view and discuss the most recent designs for Unit 4's high school projects, they are available here. Another chance for members of the public to see and provide feedback on the latest designs -- this time, for Dr. Howard Elementary -- is coming soon:

Meanwhile, here are a few conversations that took place at the high school open houses that we thought might interest a broader audience.

Q: I'm trying to understand why the proposed footprint of the new Central looks the way it does. Has Unit 4 tried to buy other properties surrounding the site? Which ones?
View of Proposed Central along Church and New (1/2018)

A: Since the entire expanded footprint of Central High School comes from real estate transactions involving willing sellers, it is by definition somewhat irregular. The reasons why some negotiations resulted in purchases by Unit 4 and other negotiations fell through (or never began) are varied and often quite personal. The Board has no interest in souring relationships with property owners adjacent to Central by revealing specific details about any given negotiation -- that is why we publicly discuss only the completed transactions. In fact, Illinois law recognizes that the delicacy of real estate negotiation outweighs the right of the public to know all the details; school boards are specifically exempt from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act when discussing real estate transactions. 

As a result of the Tier Two process in 2016, the Board was tasked with land banking where possible. We will continue to monitor what funds are available for property acquisition "for existing schools with outdoor space needs and for future new middle school and high school sites" (Tier Two Final Report, 2016, p. 5).

Creating an expanded site for Central through use of eminent domain would surely have resulted in a neater or more logical footprint. However, this Board was not interested in valuing a perfect footprint over quality community relations, and has held that position throughout the planning process.

Q: How will these projects affect my family?

A: Unit 4 and our project management team have to monitor the big picture, but we know most parents and students want more specific information about their child, their sport, or their school. Are you wondering how to answer any of the following questions?

How many years will Dr. Howard be housed at Columbia?
(Answer: Two)
Will any seasons of football be played away from Tommy Stewart Field?
(Answer: hopefully none)
How many years of my Centennial student's high school career will be affected by construction?
(Answer: for the class of 2021, probably 2-1/2 years...)

Some of these more specific questions are too far in the future for us to answer, even tentatively, but many can be answered -- to the best of our knowledge -- by consulting the most current master construction timeline
The darkest blue color ("Construction") indicates times of maximal physical disruption. So you can make projections based on that color, and we will keep that timeline link as current as possible. For example:

Central baseball should be set to go at Spalding for the spring 2019 season.
The new Dr. Howard building should be ready to welcome students in the fall of 2020.
Central's Class of 2020 should expect some construction during their junior year as well as all the way through their senior year.


Q: How will placing fields adjacent to Central [for some of its physical education/extra-curricular sports/marching band activities] affect Champaign's Sesquicentennial neighborhood?

A: Only minimal travel is needed to address this question. Take a field trip over to Urbana and walk around the campus of Urbana High School, where their students play football and soccer adjacent to some of Urbana's most desirable historic "state street" homes. Or explore the neighborhood around Unit 4's South Side, where Central has been playing baseball at McKinley Field and where some neighbors have expressed regret that high school baseball will be leaving.

School facilities of all kinds can co-exist harmoniously with almost any surroundings. The best fits are no accident, but grow out of good communication between neighbors, designers, builders, and users. We look forward to continuing these conversations.

Hope to see you at Dr. Howard!


Next meeting of the School Board: Monday, January 22, 2018

We meet in the Mellon Building, 703 S. New St. (next to South Side Elementary School) at 5:30pm, with the Open Session beginning closer to 6:00pm. Members of the public are welcome to observe, and to address the Board (for up to 3 minutes) during the designated public comment period.

You can find the meeting agenda here on BoardDocs by navigating to the "Meetings" tab, clicking on the meeting date, and then clicking "View the Agenda." (Be sure to click on each agenda item to bring up additional information or description, including any attached documents.)

The schedule of Board meetings is available here; meeting minutes are posted here (once they are approved at a later meeting); and meeting videos can be viewed here.

For the latest news and announcements from Unit 4, visit the district website:

For the latest information on referendum facilities projects, check out