Interacting with Unit 4 on Central locations

Unit 4 has advertised two meetings, inviting folks to listen to the current information so far and to provide feedback. From Stephanie Stuart:

“Gorski Reifsteck/DLR Group also shared that the recent community phone survey on the District’s facilities has been extended and refined.


The District is currently in the process of evaluating the possibility of building a new Central High School at one of two sites: the Spalding Park site and the site at Interstate Drive and Neil Street, purchased earlier this year. At the meeting, community members were encouraged to participate in the upcoming Spalding Park Community Meeting on June 13 and the Central High School Community Meeting on June 17.


The June 13 meeting will aim to gather feedback from neighbors on the possibility of building a new Central High School at Spalding Park. The Community Meeting at Central High School on June 17 will allow community members to provide input about the high school location as well as educational programming.”


Some of us received invitations via regular mail as well.


June 13:

“The informal meeting will be held in the Franklin Middle School gymnasium on Friday, June 13 from 5-7 p.m. Pizza will be provided and families are welcome to attend any time during the two-hour time period. Informational materials will be available and representatives from the School District will be present to talk with residents.”


June 17:

“6-8 p.m. Central High School

Join us to learn more and make your voice heard as we plan for the for a new Central High School & renovated Centennial High School!”


If you are able to attend one or the other of these meetings, I would very much appreciate your feedback.


UPDATE: Julie Wurth has a couple early articles about the meeting tonight:

14 Responses to “Interacting with Unit 4 on Central locations”

  1. pattsi Says:

    The fixation on these two sites only is truncating the potential for creative problem solving. The city of Champaign is scheduled to do a complete remodeling of Bristol Place. So thinking of the intersection at Bradley and Neil, including the 4 corners and spaces across the streets created by ped walks, aka Carle Hospital, changes the conversation into
    1. Renovating a whole area
    2. Integration with an existing elementary school
    3. Does not move people unnecessary because people are already being moved.
    4. Creates the much needed connectivity between downtown and Market Place
    5. Walkable spaces..
    6. Does block off the north end, but instead makes it inclusive
    7. Inc erease potential diversity and integration
    8. Would generate a show stopping, award winning HS design
    9. Oh, BUT this is not 80 acres–how can we exist without 80 acres–but they do in land locked areas
    10. Oh, but we can not have our cake and eat it too, meaning tons of fields, athletics, etc. without taking into any account what education delivery will be like in a decade, let alone 5 decades.
    11. And for whatever reason there seems to be a correlation and causation between great education and 80 acres without one single piece of research indicating this.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    UPDATE: Julie Wurth has an early article about the meeting tonight:

    Potential neighbors mostly opposed to Spalding site

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    Eye-opening statement:
    “The meeting will include a presentation by Gorski Reifsteck/DLR Group, remarks from Superintendent Judy Wiegand, and an opportunity for written feedback.”

    Ouch. Not even verbal feedback?

  4. Cindy Wachter Says:

    It is official, the Interstate site wins by a landslide 78% – 22% at the end of the community forum at Central HS on June 17. Who would consider voting for the Spalding location that would displace folks AND cost more than $45 million than the Interstate location? That was how the presentation was structured and my take on the forum tonight. I am saddened to hear folks say “but this is all we got” & “do it and move on, we’ve talked about it forever”. In a personal situation would they accept this as a solution? When merely looking at $ amounts it seems a no-brainer, the harder things to tease out are sustainability issues related to community/livability/quality of life. I’m no expert on how you tease these things out, but I’ve read enough to know there are other solutions to building on the fringe. Rationality begets irrationality.

  5. charlesdschultz Says:

    @Cindy, as a “community forum” do you felt that it truly was a community forum?

    I have a premonition that the November referendum is not going to pass; then the big question becomes, “what next?”

    • Cindy Wachter Says:

      No, it feels too late in the game for them to really want any real dialog. I told a board member that had they the foresight 20 years ago to start buying up land around the current Central as did Urbana, we wouldn’t be in this jam and that I can wait another 20 years for them to either buy up land around Central or find another more suitable central location, I won’t be forced to settle for fringe development.

  6. kshannon617 Says:

    Cindy–boy, do I agree with your assessment of that meeting. Ouch. As a Spalding site supporter, it was truly depressing. I don’t really think they wanted feedback, just validation of a decision they’ve already made.

  7. pattsi Says:

    Dead on assessments.
    Here is my posting N-G online after today’s article.

    A major problem with any of the cost numbers being batted around, thuS becoming institutionalized, is the fact that there are no externalities–in other words costs to the community and citizens, being included in the numbers or discussion. There has been a slight nod to a transportation study that has been very narrow and time centered to now, not on a longer timeline. In other words a site south of I-74 might have an initial higher cost, than bare open land north of I-74. In the long run this just may not be the case–loss of more important farm land as sprawl is generated by HS on the perimeter, increase MTD taxes, increase of park district taxes, increase of roads and thus maintenance, more schools needing to be build as is presently planned for the 80 acres, etc. North of I-74 will generate growth and then all of the accompanying infrastructures.

    • Cindy Wachter Says:

      There are oodles of articles and information about the costs of building schools on the fringe and the benefits of renovating existing facilities as well as case studies of communities faced with the choice (one source I like is from the EPA This article speaks to long term costs of a new build are often greater than anticipated as Pattsi suggests). Our school district either is ignorant of all the work that has already been done or chooses to ignore it (sadly, I get the feeling it is the latter). There are high schools in Boston, MA and Hartford, CT built in the 1600s that are still operating as high schools!

  8. Kathy Shannon Says:

    Did you see today’s article in the News Gazette? I was glad to see the architect push back on the district’s claim about the Spalding site costing 50% more. However, when I took a closer look at the links on the web site, I realized that the district isn’t using the Park District’s site drawings. One big difference is that the Park District uses the mini park across the railroad tracks for additional parking, which makes it less likely that a multistory deck would be needed. There are other differences as well, and I think the Park District design shows a much better, and probably cheaper, use of the space.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      @Kathy, you are referring to, currently the 2nd most commented article for the NG online the past week (which isn’t saying a whole lot, frankly).

      To compare side by side, here are the two different plans submitted by the two different architects (Expressions, aka Strack, associated with the Park District, DLR associated with the School District):
      Expressions Option A
      Expressions Option B
      DLR Option A – Phase 1
      DLR Option A – Phase 2

      As you say, the Expressions plan takes advantage of land across the RR tracks.

      What I have a hard time wrapping my head around is why the district is set to build a high school capable of hoursing 1700 students, when back in 2012 a literature review done by Master student Lisa De La Rue said the optimal size is between 600-900 students. It seems to me that, somehow, the administration and the BOE are missing the point; with a little over one month to go before the district has to file a petition for the November referendum, we still do not have a coherent long-term plan. We still do not have justification showing that these planned expenditures will directly and positively impact graduation rates, retention and discipline equity issues.

      As to that last, you are going to want to see the June 30th Board meeting; the topic of the SRO program I think is going to come to a head.

      But back to Central; I have been befuddled by how closely a 2007 article describes the current referendum process, calling it a “Champaign School Building Scam.” Granted, the author is highly cynical and my own views of the administrators and board members are bit more lenient, but in terms of actions, this article is dead on. Except when he goes off the deep end on charter schools – that is not a good solution, either. 🙂

  9. Kathy Shannon Says:

    I asked about the option of a third high school at the community meeting and was shot down immediately. Interestingly, they said this was because the community is very attached to the two high schools, not on research about optimal sizes. I went to a high school with about 2,000 students, and I really don’t think it’s the best option.

    I agree with you about the 2007 article; although the author is clearly not of my political persuasion, he makes some very good points.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      That 2007 article lays out the rules of the game quite clear – the school district will wield the “what the community wants” like a blunt mace.

      Granted, it is more of a double-edge sword; yes, of course, we want community voice. And while the school district is all about “community involved planning”, I am not convinced it has actually happened. Instead. like the 2007 article portrays, a decision of direction was made and the community was invited to drink the kool-aid.

      Again, I am not willing to say that certain individuals deviously and maliciously planned this from the beginning. Rather, I think we have a systemic problem, all wrapped up in the sentiment “this is how we do things”. If nothing else, I think it is “good intentions, bad execution”.

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