Updated: High School Facilities Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 12:23pm

Please review the following new additions to the High School Facilities Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Click here for a complete listing of FAQs.

The Interstate Drive site the District purchased for a new Central High School is not in the heart of Champaign. Is the site even close to a residential area?

Many of our students reside in the area surrounding the Interstate Drive site and will be able to walk to the new campus.  Currently, 471 students live within walking distance of the site on Interstate Drive. For more information on student density and population location, please visit the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission presentation from December 2, 2013 on our website (http://bit.ly/1fYZygT).

In the City of Champaign’s Champaign Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan (http://tinyurl.com/l7bc7v9), adopted in 2011, it has planned growth and development in the area surrounding the Interstate site. Over the past few years, the City has spent money adding infrastructure and utilities to prepare for this growth. In addition, the Emergency Services department is evaluating the need for a new fire station in response to residential growth in the area.

The District recently surveyed students at both Central and Centennial High Schools. At the current Central High School, only 10% of the student population walks or bikes to school. At Centennial, 11% of students walk or bike to school. The majority of students—88%—travel to and from school by car, yellow bus, or MTD.

Why did the Board purchase such a large site when smaller sites were available?

Currently, Central High School sits on 5.9 acres and does not offer comparable physical education fields or extracurricular facilities on site as its sister school, Centennial does. Additionally, Central High School does not have access to adequate parking for staff and students, who are forced to park in the surrounding neighborhood. Centennial High School has access to approximately 45 acres on and around its site. To provide equity at both high schools, the Board opted to purchase the 80-acre Interstate Drive site to allow for development of a new high school campus and future land banking. During the site selection process, the District’s architectural team developed parameters to accommodate on-site programmatic equity, as well as 21st Century learning environments. More detailed programming and planning work is underway through early summer and encompasses planning at both high school campuses. The Central High School program dashboard (http://bit.ly/1iw1AiX) outlines a need for 47 “net” acres with additional acreage required for storm water detention, as well as other outdoor academic programs under consideration. Additionally, this site allows space for an additional school to be constructed in the future due to current enrollment growth in the District.

I’ve heard the Board’s decision to purchase the Interstate site for a future high school was driven by athletics. Is this statement true?

No. The Board’s decision to purchase the Interstate site was based on providing equitable educational spaces at both Central and Centennial High Schools for essential programs such as STEM, health and wellness, foreign language, band, fine and performing arts, as well as the core curriculum and athletics. Currently, Central High School is lacking adequate space for physical education, band, and extracurricular facilities on site. Next year, nearly 200 students are signed up for the Central Marching Band, which must travel off site using school buses to practice at Centennial. Both high schools are in need of updated facilities and more classroom space to accommodate growing enrollment. With a larger site, students at Central High School will have access to the same physical education and extracurricular facilities as students at Centennial High School. In a recent survey of students, 67% of respondents said they would be more likely to participate in extracurricular activities if facilities were available on site. In addition, both high schools will offer the same educational programs and facilities that support life skills to ensure our students are career and college ready.

What will happen if nothing is done to address the capacity needs of our high schools?

If nothing is done to address the capacity needs at the high schools, the District will face overcrowding and additional trailer classrooms at both schools. At Centennial High School, for example, up to 34 additional instructional spaces will be needed to accommodate a student population of 1,700 students, which is the expected enrollment starting in 2022.

How will the Interstate Drive site impact traffic?

In a traffic impact analysis of the Interstate Drive site, conducted by the Regional Planning Commission, determined that the median distance traveled by existing Central students would increase by 2.5 miles or 4 minutes. Once attendance boundaries are adjusted, the District anticipates this distance and time to decrease. Right now, four minutes is the amount of time it takes students to walk to school from their street parking spaces in the neighborhood surrounding the current Central High School.

 What are a new Central High School and renovated Centennial High School going to cost taxpayers?

The District has engaged architects, Champaign-based Gorski Reifsteck and nationally renowned DLR Group, to program and plan for a new Central High School and a re-imagined Centennial High School. They are currently in the process of designing an educational program to meet the needs of the District that will help to determine building size and cost for both projects. More information will available in the coming months as plans are finalized.

I’ve heard the Board of Education purchased a site on Interstate Drive but is now looking into possibilities at Spalding Park. What is the current status?

The Board of Education received some new information from the Champaign Park District about the possibility of using Spalding Park for a Central High School location. This site is currently being evaluated using the same objective criteria used to evaluate all other sites throughout the site selection process. In the meantime, the District is actively meeting with the City and MTD to ensure that the Interstate Drive site is ready for a high school. 

How does the Interstate Drive site impact student transportation?

Currently, students who attend Central High School must travel off site for extracurricular practices and competitions (see map below). Because students must arrange for personal transportation to and from practices, family and work schedules are affected. By including these facilities on site at the new Central High School, personal transportation challenges would be eliminated.  The District is also committed to working with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD) to provide community and parent access to the school site.

During the site selection process, the District commissioned a study from the Regional Planning Commission (http://bit.ly/1fYZygT) to determine the transportation burden on minority and low-income students on all of the final sites. It was determined that the Interstate Drive site represents a lessened transportation burden for African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and low-socioeconomic students and families.

Stay informed! For more information and updates over the summer visit www.champaignschools.org!