Unit 4 Board of Education Takes Steps Toward New Facilities Plan

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 8:17pm

At a Special Meeting Monday, the Unit 4 Board of Education took its next steps toward developing a new, comprehensive facilities plan in partnership with the community. The Board took action on the creation of a special committee, authorized administration to hire a District construction manager and new architectural firm, and approved three property option agreements covering eight properties in the vicinity of Champaign Central High School.

The Board of Education voted to create a special board committee to make recommendations on a long term facilities plan. The committee structure approved by the Board stipulates that the group’s meetings will be held publicly, will include time for public comment at each session, and will be documented in accordance with the Open Meetings Act.

The Special Board Committee will consist of two tiers. Tier One will consist of faculty and staff from the District, and its charge will be to identify needs for capacity and programming at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  Tier Two will consist of representatives from elected bodies of local government, the business community, and at large community members. Members will include elected officials from the City of Champaign, Village of Savoy, Champaign Park District, and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Black Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation, and the Mass Transit District.

The charge of the Tier Two Committee is to review the educational recommendations from Tier One and, based on this information, provide recommendations to the Board of Education in the following areas:  location of facilities, collaborations/partnerships with other public entities in the Champaign Unit 4 District, and a finance/referendum schedule. Five open positions will be available on the Tier Two committee for community members interested in serving.

The Board stated its commitment to having representation that reflects the diversity of our students and there will be a concerted effort on their behalf to recruit applicants who support obtaining this goal. Applications will be made available on the Unit 4 website starting Tuesday.

The Board also voted to enter into a contract with construction manager O’Shea Builders (Springfield, IL), who will partner with Chicago-based firm the Bowa Group, to work directly with the District and Special Committee to provide independent cost estimates and ensure projects are estimated accurately and completed within the District’s budget.

The Board also voted to enter into an agreement with architecture team Perkins + Will and Urbana-based IGW Architecture. The team will work with both the Tier Two Committee and Board of Education as options are considered and vetted.

Perkins + Will and IGW have worked on a number of notable projects in the K-12 and higher education sectors. Perkins + Will has extensive experience designing K-12 facilities on a national scale. Some examples of their work include the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program in Blue Valley Unified School District in Overland Park, Kansas; William Jones College Preparatory High School in downtown Chicago, IL; and a number of new and renovated schools in McLean County Unit 5 School District in Normal, IL. IGW Architecture has worked on a number of notable local projects, including the renovation and expansion of King Elementary School, renovation work at Urbana High School and Middle School, construction of the new Urbana Tigers Athletic Complex, and the new Urbana Early Childhood Center. IGW also led projects such as the Urbana Aquatic Center, the new Parkland Student Union, and R.E.A.D.Y. School remodeling at the Illinois Terminal, among others.

The Board also voted to enter into contracts with three owners to place options on eight properties near the current Central High School facility at the following addresses: 500 W. Church Street (McKinley Fitness Center Building), 602 W. Church Street, 603 W. Church Street, 606 W. Church Street, 606 W. Park Street, 201 N. Lynn Street, 203 N. Lynn Street, and 605 W. Hill Street.  

The contracts give the District the sole and exclusive option to purchase the properties over the course of the 18-month agreements, but do not obligate the District to purchase them should the Board of Education decide to go in a different direction. Securing the options prior to the convening of the Special Committee protects the District against price increases that may occur if the District states its intent to expand in that area without such options in place.

“As we continue our exploration of infill options in good faith, and in response to the community feedback we have received over the past two years, we felt it necessary to secure options on properties near Central so that it is a viable option for the Tier Two committee to consider,” said Board of Education President Chris Kloeppel.

“We are excited about this opportunity to re-engage the community on this important issue,” said Kloeppel. “We anticipate a fairly short timeline for the Tier Two committee to complete its work, as there is a considerable amount of research that has already been completed and groundwork that has been laid. However, through a new lens and with voices from every corner of our community at the table, we hope to formulate a plan that addresses our educational needs and garners wide support from all stakeholders.”