Unit 4 responds to a reader’s questions – more information about the potential high school sites

Rebecca posed a number of good questions in a previous post, which I forwarded to the Board and Dr. Wiegand. Today I received a response.

In addition, there were two attachments:


site_activity_mapQ: How will putting the new Central so far away from Centennial affect ability to share classroom offerings? Currently, when a class doesn’t have enough kids to “make” (I’m not sure what the current number is, it was raised in the last few years, I think it is now around 16 to 18 students signed up for the class), one option had been to combine with Centennial to offer the class at one school to both student populations. So recently there have been combined AP history classes and upper-level German classes offered at one school or the other, and the kids from the other school are bused over. It’s an imperfect system because it means the kids being bused miss part of the class they are taking at the other school and usually part of the class they are taking the next period at their own school. However, it does allow expanded offerings at both schools, which is better than not having the class at all. (And there are plenty of classes that don’t “make” anyway, so it is a shame to further curtail offerings.) New Central will be so much further away in travel time that my guess is this program will likely die.
A: We will continue to look at providing similar offerings at both high schools. We do, however, know that at times some offerings will be available at only one school. We are continuing to look at virtual offerings to allow students to access courses. For example, this has already taken place with AP European History and we are open to this delivery format moving forward, especially if the schools are farther apart.

Zero hour courses may also provide time for students to access courses only available at the other high school.

The larger question regarding overall programming will take place in the coming months as we begin the programming design phase with an architectural firm.

Q: Will the location affect students’ ability to attend dual credit classes at Parkland for similar travel issues?
A: We do not anticipate the location impacting students’ ability to attend dual credit classes at Parkland. Many dual credit courses take place within our schools with our teachers who have been certified to teach dual credit. We do not anticipate the new location deterring students from traveling to Parkland.  The final four locations are approximately 1/2 mile more travel time to Parkland than from the current Central High School.

Q: High school students drive. What predictions does the police department have (based on statistics of course) for the number of accidents we can anticipate as new drivers add miles to their daily trip and more students have to negotiate the “shopping corridor” and its increased traffic, not to mention that bridges freeze before other road surfaces and it seems likely newer drivers are more likely to have fender benders in dubious weather. Further, some of the sites are best accessed by 57, what does putting young drivers on the interstate daily do to accident rates? I’m sure there are insurance tables for these stats.
A: Preliminary transportation studies from the Regional Planning Commission were completed for each of the final four sites. This report examines the traffic flow, number of accidents, average daily traffic, proximity to Mass Transit District Boundary, road distance to the nearest transit route, and more. Please view the attached report, specifically pages 24-27 and 32-35. Please also keep in mind that two of the final four properties are accessible from three directions: Neil, Market, and Prospect.

A more in-depth traffic study will be completed in the coming months as plans move forward

rpc_mapQ: Speaking of congestion, how are the roads there likely to be affected? What will the location do to the typical commute time for a students and staff? Will we need extra police officers on the roads during school travel times?
A: As referenced in the answer above, a more in-depth traffic study will be conducted as plans progress.

Q: Extracurricular activities on site are a great bonus to any new site for Central, but remembering that the school district does not run “late buses” for students participating, what arrangements will be made for students to get home. Will MTD add more routes? How will this affect MTD taxing rates (and will more routes be needed for the regular school day)? What is the anticipated percentage of walkers at the new site compared to at the current site?
A: Until a final site is selected, MTD is unable to respond to specific questions regarding routes or cost.

In a recent survey of current 9th and 10th grade students at Central High School:
– 9th grade-44 out of 249 (18%) respondents walk to school
– 10th grade-23 out of 205 (11%) respondents walk to school

We do not have an anticipated walk percentage at this time. We do, however, know that 46% of our student population lives North of Springfield Avenue. We are also taking a look at transportation costs for expanding our yellow school bus service with the possibility of having a satellite site at the new Central High School.  As the attached map indicates, students currently travel to a number of sites to participate in activities.

Q: We’re talking about building a new school based on 20th century offerings. What plans are being made for the future as virtual classrooms and technology become more common place. Will we really need 1700 seats in a physical building in 20 years? What about 50?
A:  The expectation moving forward would be to design spaces that are not completely ‘traditional ‘ in nature and can be adapted to meet changes in the delivery of education.

Q: Will we need additional truant officers as kids have more access to shopping (i.e., the mall) than they do at current Central and it may be difficult to get kids to return after open lunch?
A: One of the program considerations as we move forward will be closing campus at lunch time for all grades. Of course, this is a school/community decision that will be based on input from students and parents.

Q: What guarantees will be offered to families in current Central catchment areas that they will remain in Central’s zone and for how long? Build a new high school N of 74 and it seems to make sense to redistrict so the current Central population goes to Centennial. After all, some Centennial families (Ironwood subdivision, for example, have easy access to 57, which as mentioned is one of the more direct routes to these locations), so I can easily see them being redistricted to the new school. Meanwhile Central families in SE Champaign would actually be much closer to Centennial. Central families have waited a long time for a new school (my kids aged out waiting), so I would hate to see families screwed over by this location.
A: School districts look at rezoning roughly every 10 years. The last rezoning in Champaign was completed seven years ago, and we will look to rezone in the coming years as we build a new Central High School.

Q: Speaking of Centennial, rumor has it that the building has not aged well. What will be done to address this. How much will it cost? How long is the “fix” expected to last? Will we need to build another new high school to replace Centennial in 20 years? How are we planning for that? Have we learned from our past mistakes at all?
A: An important issue that the community outlined in the Great Schools, Together plan was equity in facilities. We will look to renovate Centennial High School as well to ensure that all students have access to high quality high school facilities.

The cost is approximately $40 million to renovate Centennial High School. We are in the process of having a QLEO (Quantified Learning Environments Outcomes) analysis conducted that will identify current facility needs across all of our buildings not recently renovated/constructed and will assist in prioritizing those needs. The QLEO Analysis will help to inform the Board of Education on this matter. This report should be presented to the Board by March at the latest. Any referendum discussion will include this information regarding needs and costs.

Q: Regarding the Central building (the current one), we’re told that A/C cannot be added now because the electric won’t support it. We’re also told that the old Central is likely to become the new Edison and possibly administrative offices. Since we’ll have to tackle renovations, including a/c before Edison can move in, why aren’t we doing that now? There’s no reason Central kids/staff should continue to suffer while they wait for a new building. And if a/c really isn’t possible then, how can we justify repurposing for Edison? I want to know these costs too.
A: The QLEO Analysis will also include information on the needs of the current Central facility to serve a possible middle school program, administrative offices, or an alternate program. The cost to install window air conditioning units and electrical in the current facility is around $800,000. We will have a more definite answer regarding costs and timelines once the Board receives the report and begins to discuss building priorities and options.


3 Responses to “Unit 4 responds to a reader’s questions – more information about the potential high school sites”

  1. Karen Says:

    Make the old Central a Uni 2 (or maybe Uni 4) with academics (I hate to use the word ‘gifted,’ as IMO the gifted program does not tap only into truly gifted students–to me it seems like what a regular classroom used to be at the elementary level—where I grew up, lol–different time and place) taken as seriously as sports are at Centennial (and Central). I have seen no reports suggesting serious structural issues. It’s a lovely building. A real estate developer would gut the thing and rehab it (quite beautifully, I imagine). It’s routinely done. As it sits now, isn’t it pretty similar to the conditions of Uni? Those students seem to do just fine under the building ‘circumstances.’ That would be something attractive to the University faculty community. The public schools have not been a ‘selling’ feature for many prospective candidates. If you are planning on rennovating Centennial, the price tag of the new Central needs to go waaay down. How do you all manage your personal finances??? Treat it like it’s your own money–stewardship and all that.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    I have proposed a 3-school scenario to the board and the administration, but so far nobody is biting.

    I posed a couple other questions and received a response indirectly from Andrew Levy (of the RPC).

    Q: One question I have had for a few weeks and perhaps never gave voice to – why is the RPC study (“School Site Alternatives Evaluation of Impacts on Defined Communities”) a comparison to Centennial? Why not Central? Furthermore, please explain page 8 (the 10th page of the PDF); is the chart saying that if every student in the community were to travel to the current Central, they would average 2.9 miles of travel and likewise 4.86 miles to Centennial? Why would we count Centennial students traveling to Central and Central students traveling to Centennial? I am confused about that. Why not leave Centennial (and Centennial students) out of the travel comparison altogether? I can understand that perhaps once the high school district lines are redrawn, families that once resided in one school district may then reside in another; but surely that is a small percentage.

    A: Two reports were completed, one for Centennial and one for Central. The Centennial report was recommended to be used as the final because it provides a local example of a school closest to the size requirement for the new site (minimum of 30 acres). Since the planning process showed significant interest in siting the school in an urban location, measures were selected that would differentiate urban and suburban conditions (pedestrian infrastructure). All relevant numbers are shown in the report in order to complete a comparison of the sites to Central. A weighting framework could also be applied to prioritize certain measures over others.

    Regarding the travel evaluation for students, all students were used in the analysis because it was determined that the attendance zones would be changed based on the location of the new site. We did not assume that the change would involve only a small percentage of students. Since the range of potential sites covered many different areas of the district, we determined that there would be many possibilities for rezoning and the potential for significant impacts.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    I thank Dr. Wiegand for taking the time to respond to my questions and for the documents she supplied. Some of it is very helpful; however, I, and I think many others, would still like to see a long-term cost breakdown of buying cheaper land at the edge of town with its likely ongoing higher transportation/operating costs (numbers not yet available) vs. buying more expensive land in town with likely lower ongoing transportation/operating costs. Unfortunately, I suspect this outer land purchase is a fait accompli, rendering all concerns and desires to see such cost comparisons moot.

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