Updated: High School Facilities Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (July 8, 2014)

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 9:49am

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

What is the difference in cost to build the new high school at Spalding Park rather than the Interstate Drive site that the Board of Education has purchased?

Current estimates for the development cost of Spalding Park include a $45.8 million increase over the cost of the Interstate Drive site.

These estimates include the difference in property acquisition in the Spalding Park area that includes Judah Christian School as well as residential and commercial properties; site development; and construction of a multi-story school vs. a more traditional school facility.

These figures will continue to be refined as the District finalizes the educational program and required building size for a new Central High School and renovated Centennial High School.

Is the District taking a look at long-term costs of both the Spalding Park and Interstate Drive sites rather than just initial construction costs? What will be the long-term economic impact at both sites?

The District is currently working with Community Innovations Consultant Mike Royse, Community Development Professional David Foote, and Brian Deal with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois to perform a Benefit Cost Life Cycle Analysis for both the Interstate Drive and Spalding Park sites. The analysis will assess both direct and indirect costs and benefits accruing to the community, including:

  • Mobility and access
  • Health
  • Infrastructure carrying costs
  • Social and educational equity
  • Economic activity
  • Land values
  • Tax burden/revenues
  • Opportunity costs

How can I find the possible site layouts of both the Spalding Park and Interstate Drive sites?

You can view possible site layouts for both the Spalding Park and Interstate Drive sites at the following link on pages 12 & 13: http://www.champaignschools.org/sites/default/files/news/files/Unit%204%...

When will we know which site is finalized for a new Central High School? When will we know if it will appear on the November ballot?

The Board of Education voted to approve the purchase of Interstate Drive for the development of a new Central High School in January 2014.  The Board of Education would need to vote to change the location. The deadline to file a November ballot question with the Champaign County Clerk is August 17th.

If the Spalding Park site is selected for the new high school, what will happen to the memorial trees that have been planted at the park?

The Park District stated on June 17th at the Central High School Community Meeting that they would work with the individual families with memorial trees to either relocate or create new memorials.

If the Spalding Park site is selected for the new high school, will the school facilities be shared with the community since the park will be lost?

The School District is willing to explore opportunities to share some facilities, provided maintenance and supervision can be addressed collaboratively with the Park District.

What facilities would need to be cut to build at the Spalding Park location rather than the site at Interstate Drive?

The site fit analysis depicted at the June 17th Community Meeting illustrates the high school and site amenities proposed for Spalding Park and adjacent land. 

The Board of Education is committed to not using eminent domain, so homes in the area would need to be acquired over time in order to realize full development.  The money to purchase all of the property would need to be obtained through a bond referendum. That presentation can be found here: http://www.champaignschools.org/sites/default/files/news/files/Unit%204%....

Why can’t Dodds Park or West Side Park be used for the new high school?

The School District has previously asked for the Park District’s consideration of Dodds Park for a new Central High School. The Park District requested that the School District examine Spalding Park for its ability to support the needs of a new high school first before entertaining a conversation on other park land.

If the Spalding Park site would require an athletic complex somewhere else, wouldn’t that require additional cost?

The cost depends upon what land is not needed around Spalding Park in comparison to the money needed to develop an additional site location with those amenities.

The Spalding Park site may require a parking garage. Are there any safety or supervision concerns associated with this?

Yes.  As discussed at the June 17th Community Meeting, School District administration raised some security and maintenance concerns regarding a parking garage. Some concerns raised about a parking garage at the new Central site include supervision of students, new drivers, and ongoing maintenance costs.

Why is it important to have athletic facilities on-site for students?

Central High School is the only school in the Big 12 Conference without on-site facilities for students. Our students are very active in athletics and more would participate if on-site facilities were available. More than half of students at Champaign Central High School participate in athletics, but for most sports, offsite travel is required for practice and competition. This need to travel off-site to participate creates equity and access issues for low-income and minority students who may not have transportation means. Due to limited gym space, even sports that can take place on-site have staggered practice times that can run until 9 p.m. Many students who do not have access to transportation end up staying at school from dismissal time until 7 p.m. just to begin practice. Adequate athletic facilities would allow students to stay on campus for school and practice and alleviate some of the current inequalities and scheduling issues. It would also allow students who participate in athletics to return home at an earlier hour that would allow for more regular meal times.

In a recent survey of 600 freshmen and sophomores we asked, “If you are not an athlete, would you consider participating in athletics if all our facilities were on campus?” More than 170 of 600 students indicated they would participate if facilities were on-site.

Our students who participate in athletics tend to excel academically. This spring, nine of the top 12 senior scholars participated in Central athletics and were honored at the Big 12 Conference Honors Day. Three of those 9 compete in more than one sport and two are multiple state-qualifiers. Central Athletics teams are routinely awarded IHSA Team Academic Achievement Awards.

How important is it to also renovate Centennial High School in addition to building a new Central High School?

It is the District’s intention to provide equal access to facilities to students at both Central and Centennial High Schools. This is especially important to the District’s mission to provide a high quality education to all students in the community, regardless of address.

I’ve heard we will have some capacity issues at both high schools in the next 10 years. How many additional classrooms are needed to accommodate students?

Gorski Reifsteck/DLR Group presented classroom needs at both campuses to meet the student enrollment increases already seen at the elementary schools.  District-wide, an additional 33 Classrooms, 4 Small Classrooms, 15 Science Labs, and 7 PE Stations will be needed to meet standards, accommodate our students,and deliver the current quality of education in the year 2022. You can view more information on this here: http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/6635.

What are the plans for the current Central High School facility once a new school is built?

Several proposals have been discussed. At this time, the School District intends to house Novak Academy, the Family Information Center, the Mellon Administrative Center and other functions at the current Central High School to increase operational efficiencies. Under this plan, the Auditorium and Gymnasium may be available for community use.

Would the new Central High School and renovated Centennial High School utilize green building practices to ensure their efficiency and sustainability in the long-term?

Yes. Gorski Reifsteck/DLR Group conducted an environmental workshop along with specialty consultant YR&G in order to share the changing energy code requirements and sustainable opportunities. Many changes to state building codes now mandate energy efficiency to what was previously a choice.

In alignment with the Great Schools, Together strategic plan, the District is committed to green building practices when building new schools. The District has a number of existing LEED Certified buildings, including Booker T. Washington STEM Academy, Garden Hills Elementary School, and Carrie Busey Elementary School. These buildings, as well as efficiency upgrades at many other schools that have received renovations, have resulted in cost savings to the District.

Why can’t we build a third high school and renovate the existing two high schools?

The idea of building a third high school was discussed during the 2012-2013 school year and was an option presented to the community in the District’s work with community engagement firm DeJong-Richter. At that time, there was some support for that idea, but the predominant feedback we have received from the community on this topic indicates a desire to continue the two high school model in Champaign and renovate the existing Central building for an alternative use. You can view the results from this work here: http://www.champaignschools.org/futurefacilities/wp-content/uploads/2013....

Why can’t we renovate and expand the current Central High School instead of building a new school?

To renovate the current Central High School to meet 21st Century educational standards and meet the District’s capacity needs, the cost would be approximately $108 million according to a recent study from BLDD Architects. The District and Board of Education have determined this would not be a prudent use of taxpayer dollars because the facility would still face significant space needs, parking inequity, and inequity in extracurricular spaces.

I’ve heard the District is considering building a K-8 school. What is the status of this?

The District is examining multiple options as a part of its master facilities plan including constructing a K-8 Dr. Howard to replace the existing Dr. Howard.  This will serve to meet the District’s capacity and overcrowding levels as well as offer a new choice to families in Unit 4.  Discussions about this option are tied to the District’s master facilities plan, and those conversations are still ongoing at this time. It is possible this option could be included in a November 2014 bond referendum.

Since the Board began discussing building a new Central High School have they stopped investing in repairs and maintenance at the current school? Is that why it has become inadequate?

No. While plans are in motion to build a new Central High School, the District takes great pride in the current facility and is committed to continuing to use it in the District for many years to come following the construction of a new school.

Since the Board began discussing the construction of a new school in 2006, a number of upgrades have been added to Central High School to benefit faculty and students in the meantime. In the past three years, the District has invested in a College & Career Center at Central at a cost of roughly $250,000; and improvements for the industrial technology area, including $30,000 dust collection unit, $14,000 ventilation system for the new welding area, and new electrical drops. The District has also invested in a new CAD lab that includes updated security, 25 new computers ($18,000), and brand new 2014 AutoCAD software ($4,000). A number of repairs have also been made to the building and its systems to maintain its current functionality.

Why did the Board of Education purchase land for a new Central High School without first passing a bond referendum to fund the project?

As part of the promises for the 1% sales tax funds, the District committed to setting aside funds for a new Central High School site. The Board was committed to keeping that promise and purchased the site on Interstate Drive in January 2014. The Board and District purchased the site so that the community would not be asked to fund a large bond referendum at an unknown location.

What were the results of the recent community phone survey? Which site did they prefer?

As part of a recent scientific survey of likely voters, 49% of respondents preferred the Interstate Drive site, 38% preferred the Spalding Park site, and 14% were unsure.

A total of 47% of survey respondents said they would “Strongly Favor” or “Favor” a referendum that included the high school location they preferred, and that resulted in a tax increase of $160.58 per year for each $100,000 of home value. When opponents, or those who were undecided, were asked about a $128.47 per year increase instead, total support stood at 52%. When continuing opponents (or undecided respondents) were asked about a $96.35 per year option instead, total support grew to 56%. You can view the final report here: http://futurefacilities.champaignschools.org/sites/futurefacilities.cham....

I’ve heard Centennial is more expensive to maintain than the current Central facility. Is this true and would a new school be more or less expensive to maintain than the current Central facility?

It’s true that the current Centennial facility is more expensive to maintain than the current Central facility, but this is largely due to the fact that buildings constructed in the 1960s are notoriously inefficient.

Buildings today are constructed with efficiency and long-term sustainability in mind. The District has a number of existing LEED Certified Gold buildings, including Booker T. Washington STEM Academy, Garden Hills Elementary School, and Carrie Busey Elementary School. These buildings, as well as efficiency upgrades at many other schools that have received renovations, have resulted in cost savings to the District.

Efficiency is another reason the Centennial High School facility must also be addressed.

Why can’t the District build on the current Central parking lot or purchase the old YMCA building for additional facilities? What about closing Park Avenue?

The current Central parking lot is absolutely vital to the daily operations of the school. This parking lot is the only dedicated parking for faculty and staff, and even its current size is inadequate. Eliminating this parking lot would further exacerbate the street parking challenges around the school.

Purchasing the old YMCA building across Church Street would not provide the adequate space for a comprehensive high school, an extension of Central to alleviate overcrowding, or worthwhile athletic field space. The old YMCA property would only provide an additional 2.5 acres. The District is seeking at least 47 acres for the new high school. Funds spent to purchase, demolish and/or renovate the old YMCA building could be used to develop a site that has all of the necessary facilities.

Closing Park Avenue would cause significant traffic flow issues around the school. Central High School was designed and built with the plan to use Park Avenue for drop-off and pick-up.

Central has never had on-site athletics spaces so why is this important now?

Just because an inequity currently exists does not mean that it should continue into the future. Central High School is the only school in the Big 12 Conference without access to on-site athletics facilities. Students attending Central High School do not currently have the same access to opportunities as students at Centennial High School.

The community expects for the District to provide an equitable educational experience to all students as outlined in the Great Schools, Together strategic plan.  This includes access to physical education, athletics, and other extracurricular activities that support student engagement and learning.