Will we need a Plan B?

With Julie Wurth’s latest update (New Central High School: it’s back to Interstate Drive), prepare yourself for a November ballot question, “Will you spend x millions of dollars to build a new Central, refurbish Centennial, and possibly fix up South Side and Dr. Howard?”


There are several angles to this I wish to address. First I am going to defend the board and the administration. *grin* But I will not stop there, so please keep reading.


A large number of those who leave comments on the relevant NG articles (see my Index if you want a comprehensive list) demonstrate that they do not fully understand the historical context of how we have arrived at where we are. I will even go so far to say that some are being purely emotional and just spouting opinions that have no basis in reality whatsoever. It is easy to say the board/administration is not listening. Isn’t it odd that Unit 4 has spent over $200,000 on multiple consultants and experts to “prove” that they are listening (that is not meant to be flame bait – hold on a couple paragraphs)? Casting such a wide net of blame is not fair; “Wah! The board didn’t pick my favorite option, they must not be listening to me!! WAAAHHHH!” The board and administration have heard many things from the community; in all that, they have finally made a decision to act and are acting on a portion of community feedback that is easiest for them to work with, aka “low hanging fruit”. You know the saying, “haters gonna hate”? It is impossible to reach 100% consensus, so we will always have a group of people who do not like “the idea”, no matter what the idea is. To give credit to the board, they have not been idle; aside from the forums and other opportunities at various school district locations, individual board members have made themselves available and Dr. Wiegand has been on Penny for Your Thoughts to answer live questions, not to mention a twitter chat that some were able to take advantage of.


I must also remind the larger community that over the past several decades Unit 4 has done just about nothing to plan ahead for capital growth, not until the past 6 years or so when a semblance of a plan has been batted about. I cannot blame the current board and administration for that; it was an inherited problem. It should be obvious that we need to do something – renting out trailers to house additional students is a horrible long-term plan. That’s a black eye for any proud community.


Finally, way too many people are ready to cast stones without even going through the steps of representative government; if you don’t talk to board members, if you don’t show up at board meetings (*cough cough*), if you do not participate in the public “Community Conversations”, and if you don’t make alternative suggestions before the 11th hour, can you really expect to start complaining now and have it mean much?


And now I am going to flip it around. As much as the community has issues, so does the board and the administration. Karen has talked about the “Delphi” effect, and from the external evidence we have (not having access to closed board meetings, nor all the many conversations that do not happen in the public sphere), there is certainly the appearance that some group in the school district decided what direction this would take, and then went through the hand-waving motions of engaging the community. There are those of us (tax-paying, voting citizens who do not draw a check from Unit 4 nor sit on the board) who are very much engaged at various levels and yet we have an exceptionally difficult time trying to affect change. There are a lot of heads beating against walls, which leads to trust issues with the school district. Imani Bazzel had a super awesome collaborative effort all packaged up nice and neat for Unit 4, and all that effort and hard work all but disappeared from Unit 4 after the final presentation – never came up with Dejong-Richter or Gorski Reifsteck. Holly Neslon’s excellent work (for FREE!) was largely brushed under the rug as well.


To this end, I hold the board at fault for not fully adopting the IASB’s John Carver Governance model. Granted, it is relatively new and the IASB is still in the process of pushing it out, but the board for a long time (ie, at least over the past decade that I have been involved, and I hear longer from others) has had a hard time of demonstrating that they are beholden to the community. It is not that I want the board to do more, but rather, change what they are doing and how they are doing it.



Circling back to the topic of this thread, “Will we need a Plan B?”

The writing was on the wall back in January that the district was focused on Interstate Drive. Hiring Gorski-Reifsteck and considering Spalding were, I believe, just steps to pacify the angry mobs. 🙂 The district has shown that they are following a loose blue-print that came out of “Great Schools, Together” (GST), to the extent that the 1% sales tax and “Promises Made Promises Kept” were all about achieving some of the goals from GST. The November referendum is just an extension of that effort, to further address the goals outlined in GST. The problem is that the GST is, for all intents and purposes, dead to the community. Most people have completely forgotten about it. The Unit 4 website for GST was absolutely abysmal. Thus, it seems (feels) like this whole business about building a new school and vamping up the high schools is totally out of the blue. On top of that, it is obvious that there are many different ideas on how to proceed from here – the community is very divided.

At this point, I think Unit 4 has a pretty strong backing of followers who fully support any decision they might make. The last minute campaign, which was partially already put into play via the fine Shatterglass videos, will convince some people that yes indeed, Unit 4 is stuck between a rock and a hard place and we need to pass a referendum to build buildings. But there are also a lot of divided community members whose only common point is that they plan to vote “no”.

From where I sit, I believe the November referendum will fail. Why? $100 million dollars is a lot to ask for! Unit 4 has already asked for almost $100 million since 1998, and there is the promise that Unit 4 will have to ask for more again in the very near future. This is a huge burden on our lower income folks, and probably even the nebulous middle-class. Additionally, I think the style and method by which the board has conducted its business has not adequately crossed the chasm of distrust built up over the past couple of decades. And please note, I must again point out that I am not blaming specific individuals for this – rather, it is a huge systemic problem with the way we exercise governance. We need more people to rise up and demand changes. Voting helps, but is a very limited tool.


So what is going to happen when (if) the November referendum does not pass? One popular sound-byte reported by the NG is that Unit 4 will get more trailers. Obviously, that is not the only thing Unit 4 will seriously consider; most likely they will try for another referendum. Here is my challenge for all of us – if/when the November public school referendum does not pass, we need to figure out why. Yes, I hear the sentiment that we are “done talking” – however, it has been the wrong kind of talking, in my opinion. With all that talking we did, where are the 20- and 40-year plans? Supposedly we have a GST Strategic Plan and a Capital Improvement Plan, but I found them exceptionally hard to plot a course with. Yes, let us stop talking – let us do more planning charrettes; let us have a Unit 4 classroom that finds solutions for us; let us reflect on our true mission, collaborating with community to training up all learners to be wildly successful at life; let us volunteer for programs like ACTIONS, 1-to-1 mentoring, TALKS, or as a classroom parent or helping in the lunch room or with after-school programs. Heck, get involved with Pre-K and CUC2C.


If the November referendum does in fact pass, we need to stand up and support the schools still. Giving up is not an option. If 50.01% voters vote yes, that is what we have to live with and move forward.

38 Responses to “Will we need a Plan B?”

  1. SC Says:

    I agree with you – I think the referendum will fail. Almost like a vote of “no confidence”. I’m very unimpressed with how the board and administration has handled things and while I recognize the need to improve the facilities in the district, I don’t think this is the best way and will not vote in favor of the referendum.

  2. kshannon617 Says:

    As you say, the board certainly wants to give the appearance of listening. Here is my experience–I went to several meetings of various sorts for a few years. I saw board members at PTA meetings and facilities planning meetings. Every time I or someone else talked about walkability or sustainability, we were shut down. It was abundantly clear that they thought all such options had been ruled out by previous board members not doing land-banking like Urbana. It was also clear that they weren’t terribly concerned about that. I read numerous articles in the News Gazette about people pleading with the board to consider various infill sites, only to hear over and over again that those options weren’t viable. When they started discussing Sholem Spalding [corrected by Charles], I thought we had made a real breakthrough. I emailed the board about my thoughts, and I encouraged others to do the same. I went to the public input meeting hoping to see some real discussion of a great possibility. Instead what I saw was a presentation designed to put the absolute worst spin possible on that alternative.

    So when I say the board hasn’t listened, because that’s my comment up there, this is what I’m talking about. I and many other people have been trying to tell them that compactness is one of Champaign’s most valuable attributes. It’s better for our health, our environment, and even economic mobility in the city. But I’ve never gotten the feeling that it’s ever going to be a factor they consider.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    I’ll add a big amen to what KSKshannon wrote above. That was basically my experience as well. And after a while, you just begin to figure “well, if they don’t want to hear what I have to say, I may as well stay home.” Burnout is a real thing when it comes to working with Unit 4.

    So lately, I’ve been wondering what Unit 4 could do to convince those of us who are generally pro-new high school, but feeling cynical about the process (for example, seeing Unit 4 push polls and meetings clearly designed to push voters to a certain conclusion (i.e., Interstate) isn’t helping win friends) to really convince us that is the best and only viable place to build. For me, I want to see thoughtful long-term planning. What will a high school look like there in five years, ten, fifty? Will it still meet our needs (somethings are hard to predict, but there are precedents). I want to know what the plan is for Centennial for the same period. I also want to know what the plan is for the old Central and the middle schools. I want to see accurate unbiased transportation reports for now and when a high school is built and projected with all the growth (Will, for example, we have to build a ring road to bypass all the sprawl and traffic north eventually?).

    I want to know–in essence–what the long-term plans are. And give it to me straight. Don’t just tell me what you think I want to hear to vote for Interstate. We have a highly educated population. It’s okay to summarize, but give me the data too (like any peer reviewed paper it should be replicable: if someone else works the same data, they should get the same conclusions; there have been some suggestions in the N-G, for example, that Unit 4 is fudging numbers on Spalding and it would not be as much more as Unit 4 is saying to build there–show us the data).

    Finally, since Unit 4 seems to have determined that a smaller number of acres is okay, why isn’t Country Fair back in the mix? I believe it was dropped for being too small, as were some other sites, but if we can build on Spalding, couldn’t we potentially build on some of these other smaller plots? Unit 4 should relook at any viable plot formally discussed in the past and give us hard reasons for why they will or will not work and were taken off the table. (And, no, sorry, the N-G stating in a headline/article that “School site may well become central in years ahead” does not count as a hard fact. Nor does simply saying, “it costs too much.” Maybe it does, but back that up with fact.) If the school district can show us that Interstate is the most cost effective (long term, too!) and that no other sites are as viable, the referendum might have a chance of passing. Lots of us know something has to be done. Unit 4 just hasn’t done very much to convince us this is that something.

    • kshannon617 Says:

      I’m going to the board meeting on Monday night. Would you come? It might be easier to avoid burnout if we get a few people going together.

      • Rebecca Says:

        Thanks for the invite. I wish I could. Unfortunately, I have another meeting. I will be interested to read what happens, however.

  4. Rebecca Says:

    If I could edit, I’d change to –> too twice. Sigh.

  5. kshannon617 Says:

    And if I could edit, I would change Sholem to Spalding. D’oh!

  6. charlesdschultz Says:

    I think if you login to wordpress, you can edit them. Of course, I could edit them for you as well. 🙂 Those are really minor issues.

    I appreciate what you both have said. I may be stepping on toes just a tad, but my own observation is that the board itself is not necessarily being obdurate and pig-headed, per se, but rather they have put their eggs into the basket of paid consultants and “experts”, and I think they don’t want to back down from those high-paid suggestions at this time. They have often repeated “we have been talking for years, and we are done talking.” The overriding mentality of the district and the board is to go pay someone to give us a professional opinion and then go with it no matter what. (See the “building scam” written several years ago which pretty much forecasted what we see unfolding before us) While “Great Schools, Together” was an excellent foray into uncharted territory, we let it die on the vine; it should have been front and center, and we should have been followed-up with planning charrettes and maybe even another similar effort a couple years later.

    But here is where the rubber hits the road. People ARE burnt out in many ways. Tired of talking and talking and talking, tired of trying to make their voice heard, tired of offering alternatives, tired of too much data, tired of not enough data. It is a horrible climate in which to make a decision. So on that count, I give kudos to Unit 4 for saying “dang it, right or wrong, we are moving on this sucker.” But the whole point of this post is “what if the referendum fails?” What do we do next?

    Personally, I am not ok with just sitting on my ass and hoping the best comes out of it. I am not comfortable not having a Plan B before November. So from where I sit, it is up to us everyday citizens to come up with a feasible, reasonable and “easy to like” Plan B. The biggest challenge is probably getting a highly diverse and divided population to bless it. And I don’t know how to do that unless we have some quality, engaged and comprehensive dialogs with various stakeholders, on their own turf, planning charrettes that help bring it all to life, and unit 4 officials that agree to be passive resources and exercise active listening (without steering the conversation).

    At the end of the day, we still have some totally awesome teachers in Unit 4! We still have some reall nice magnet programs, some excellent initiatives like ACTIONS and the Novak Academy, and some very talented and very passionate people duking it out day after day in our schools. I really want to see ALL students succeed; I want our public schools to foster a new generation of citizens that rise above gang violence, stem the “school to prison pipeline” and become the kind of leaders that we, especially we in Illinois, are desperately in need of. If that can be done with at $100+ million referendum and the low-income folks are somehow relieved from being crushed by the extra taxes, then sign me up!

  7. Rebecca Says:

    OK. I’ll play. My very basic plan B is to (one) upgrade the current Central enough with renovation to put in better electric and a/c. That can be done with 1 percent tax money. It will need to be done anyway if we are going to consider re-purposing the school as either Edison, a third magnet high school, or as Novak/all Unit 4 services under one roof (all three of which I’ve seen suggested at various times). Therefore, there is no point making those Central kids and staff suffer another year without a/c. Having had kids at Central, I can tell you that not much learning goes on when the heat index is high. It’s just cruel not to do it. Two, I’d look for overflow space to add classes, etc. since the district seems to think we’re going to max out on space at the high schools in the not too distant future. (Perhaps buying back Judah for that purpose, for example. It is already set up (presumably) with lab space etc.) While we continue to dicker about what to do with Central, that could become a small magnet high school. We could give it a theme (Unit 4 seems to like that) so maybe STEM or whatever. Depending on the theme and the set up of the overflow space, we could either house a small overflow population there exclusively or we could rotate kids who belong to a home high school there on a half day basis to take specific classes not offered at the home high school (the latter would of course increase transportation costs). Once we finally settle on a new location for Central that is agreeable to voters (whether that is eventually Interstate or somewhere else), we can keep the overflow space as part of the land bank we keep talking about that we lack. Using the Judah example, down the road, the space could be useful if/when we need to expand Franklin. OK, that was just off the top of my head. Whaddya got Unit 4?

  8. pattsi Says:

    Good for you, Rebecca. Charles is always talking about the need for a plan and to o something that will engage the public. You have risen to his challenge. I am awaiting his rising to your challenge in return.

  9. pattsi Says:

    I had forgotten about the IlliniPundit posting titled, Building School Scam, written 7 years ago. Unfortunately, too much on target as to what is playing out right now. A huge disappointment as to community involvement.

  10. kshannon617 Says:

    I like Rebecca’s plan as a start. I would add looking into landbanking around Central and/or Judah ASAP–I don’t want to miss out on properties that might come up for sale. Urbana doesn’t spend large amounts of money doing this every year, so it’s possible we could find that money within current budgets.

    Another idea might be the Central renovation ideas mentioned in David Sholem’s email (from your post on July 20). I don’t know whether he is correct in all his assumptions, but it seems like a good starting point for discussion.

  11. pattsi Says:

    Actually right now there are a sufficient number of houses for sale right across University from the HS as a start along with the parking lot across Park to create a nice site to begin expansions, again using peds across the streets to connect the building. It is such a shame that Unit 4 did not purchase the Y when it was for sale. An underground connecting tunnel could have easily been built, aka the undergrad library to the grad library. It is exciting to read ideas outside box.

  12. Rebecca Says:

    Looking at Zillow it looks like the three houses for sale south of Central on University are listed for $375K, 300K, and $395K. It would probably be better to buy up lots between the north side of University and the south side of Church if we were to talk about a permanent serious expansion at Central. I say this for a several reasons: (a) the houses are generally cheaper, (b) they aren’t (generally) the massive Victorians that are likely to raise the ire of historical preservationists if the school district pulls them down, and (c) the city of Champaign would likely approve closing Park (thus allowing the land in the street/sidewalk to be used too) but I can’t see them agreeing to close University or Church.

    And I absolutely agree that our various school boards (can’t pin that problem on any one board configuration) have had a history of missed opportunities. I hope they are just playing their cards close to their vests in hopes a referendum passes, and that they actually have been quietly planning on a plan B. I am afraid, however, that their plan B involves lots of rent-a-classrooms.

    I suspect at least half the reason Centrals a/c has not been upgraded yet is that they can cry to the voters that the staff and kids are suffering (which of course they are). Central needs upgrading/replacing for lots of reasons, but sweaty kids and lost education hours are much more visible/relatable to the average voter than inadequate lab spaces/music space/computer space/even general classroom space. Likewise, It’s a lot more dramatic to say we need more space when you have kids in pop-up classrooms than to squeeze them into current classrooms (which we’ve been doing for a while in certain classes) or finding more permanent temporary space as I suggest above.

  13. pattsi Says:

    Rebecca, in your last paragraph you have nicely integrated Dannel McCollum’s argument/point that he has been making–in that there has been years of purposeful neglect to enhance an argument such as you write.

  14. Karen Says:

    FWIW, I think I recall from a board meeting it being noted that Central could not be upgraded to central air. They had somebody (engineering firm? or whoever determines the feasility of such things) look at it. Did that mean as is? Did that mean not even with a complete gut and rehab? I don’t know. I think it was also noted that the reason they have not done window units is because it would be very costly ($800K, maybe??) to do so, so why bother spending the money on that given that it seemed that they thought the building was going to be unworkable to be continued as a high school.

  15. pattsi Says:

    Karen, someone needs to dig into the issue you present because this goes completely against the repurpose plan presented to the board/community by Kerris and Christine along with all of the talk that Central become Edison and the Unit 4 central office. As you point out there maybe conflicting arguments depending on the end desire. Maybe Charles can offer a clarification.

    • Karen Says:

      I was surprised, too, to learn of their repuposing proposal, as the way the building seemed to be talked about by Unit 4 it was just ‘too old’ and not very usable. (I have never seen it that way–think Chicago–but, I don’t know all the specifics of how the ‘bones’ of a building factor in to determine rehab potential vs. demolition). So, how could there suddenly be potential for office space, shops, artist lofts and apartments, as well as suitable office space for Unit 4 Admin? It would have to be rehab-able or it is totally fine for those things, as is [including no AC–as if you would bite the bullet for AC (box units with necessary-to-fit new windows) for things other than students, why wouldn’t you have done it for students in the first place?). HOWEVER, I think*(*not stating as fact) the repurposing proposal might have involved a developer, who I assume (right or wrong reasoning) would off-set the cost to Unit 4 for ‘rehabbing’ the building? This would be occurring in an urban region, so maybe potential developers have means of off-setting their costs through things like incentives to build mixed income housing (as we have seen in couple of other parts of the city?) or whatever–I don’t know. I think* there might have been talk of hiring a management company to ultimately manage the property (to get Unit 4 out of the ‘business’ of property management? or something like that).

  16. Unit 4 Mom Says:

    The administration and board has always been various levels of dysfunctional but it has descended to the depths of parody since the start of this year… Coincidently when they made the controversial appointment of John Bambanek to the school board.

    We warned you and now you can see the poisoned fruits of putting that clown anywhere near our kids.

  17. Rebecca Says:

    Historically there have been several buildings in the district where it was “impossible” to add a/c because the building had old wiring/inadequate electric service. Yet, every building EXCEPT Central now has a/c. So I suspect that if the district REALLY wanted a/c at Central at this time, it could happen. It might be expensive, but I’m certain if Unit 4 had the will to do it, it could be done. There has been no suggestion that they want to tear down the building, so I stand by my statement that not doing a/c there is just cruel. Even if the referendum miraculously passes in November, we’re four plus years from a new high school, and the district plans to make use of the Central building after a new high school somehow. We shouldn’t make the current kids/staff wait.

    • Rebecca Says:

      My post was in reply to Karen, above, not Unit 4 Mom. Not sure how the hierarchy for the thread is established . . .

      • Karen Says:

        I agree that it has to be possible (even if only box units with new windows that fit/accept them). The price tag would be relatively high? (per whoever they consulted). But, why does the price tag not seem too high for other things (e.g., the athletics wish list)?

  18. Theresa Says:

    This may be a dumb idea but couldn’t we split the grades and put 9/10 in one school and 11/12 in another? Would that ease the over crowding at all?

    • kshannon617 Says:

      It has been suggested because you could potentially reduce parking requirements at one site, if you had extra parking at the other site. (Students in 9th & 10th grades are almost never old enough to drive.) It doesn’t reduce the actual building space required though, so it’s of limited value.

  19. Rebecca Says:

    Theresa, I don’t think that would help because you just divide the kids differently. For example, lets say there are 400 kids at each grade level in each high school so each school has 1600 kids. If you move 800 juniors and seniors from Central to Centennial and 800 freshman and sophomores from Centennial to Central, you still have 1600 kids at each school. It’s not as neat as that of course because the classes are not evenly distributed from year to year and by senior year there is quite a bit of attrition. So likely the 9/10 center would have a lot more kids than the 11/12 center.

    One idea suggested early on and quickly dismissed by the (then) school board was returning 6th grade to elementary, then making our middle schools junior highs with 7, 8, 9. The high schools would then be 10-12, which loses a quarter of the kids and thus the overcrowding. This likely would not fly now because the elementary schools are at the end phase of renovation, so opportunity to adjusting spacing/programming needs there is likely lost.

    I know of other larger school districts that run their schools year round. They divide the kids/teachers into quarters. Kids and teachers are in school three quarters and off one. So, for example, lets call the groups of kids ABCD. In Q1, ABC are in session and D is on “summer” break. In Q2, BCD are in session and A is on break. In Q3 CDA are in session and B is on break. And in Q4 DAB are in session and C is on break. Everyone is off for holidays falling during that quarter (Christmas, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, etc.) There is definitely some logistical adjustment to this system. If a kid wants to play a certain sport, he or she had to be put in the session that is not on break that quarter. Families need to get on the same session to have the same break (which if the family has two kids each playing a different sport, could be difficult). Teachers end up cleaning out their room at break because another teacher is going to move into it. I am not advocating for this system at all, but it is an example of out-of-the box thinking that lets other districts deal with their overcrowding issues.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      In theory, I really like the idea of year-round schools. Especially in light of the research that says those who struggle in school fall way behind over the summer – what sense does that make?

      Yes, there are definitely logistical obstacles, but not impossible ones. The schools should first and foremost be buiding successful community citizens. Sports and extracurricular activities are imporant, to be sure, but should not drive how we model educational systems.

  20. pattsi Says:

    Just a thought here based on research results–a goal in designing educational environments is to minimize how often students need to adjust to new learning environments. It is stressful to rise to the top of the grade pecking order in one building only to have to move to new one because of grade configurations. This is the reason that grades K-8 and 9-12 work best for students.

  21. Rebecca Says:

    I have read those research papers as well. The problem is most people haven’t and they think more with their gut. When the K-6 suggestion came up years ago, the district said that based on parent feedback, parents didn’t want kindergarteners with sixth graders. They (parents) felt that was too large an age gap and by sixth grade the kids were so much more mature (read now talking about subjects and in language parents didn’t want around the little kids). If the goal is to keep little kids innocent as long as possible, keeping them away from kids in puberty can sound like a great plan. So, unless Unit 4 is certain that a lot more parents have read these studies, I really can’t see K-8 being a huge hit here, but times change, so maybe I’m wrong.

  22. pattsi Says:

    What is so humorous is the assumption of the “big bad wolf” syndrome instead of thinking how to integrate the more advanced students into the learning experiences of the younger students. Help the students feel useful, accomplished, responsible, etc. Give the younger children something to work toward as they become the older students.
    Just a short history–I moved here in 1971 from Evanston. At that time Evarnston schools were moving from a junior high format to K-8. At this time, Champaign hired the Evanston superintendent because the then board and administration desired to move Champaign from the K-8 format to establishing junior highs. Oh the wonderment of how theories change or maybe it is that the fads change–junior highs were becoming the “big deal” then. 🙂

  23. charlesdschultz Says:

    In an attempt to wrap up some answers, let me remind you of a very similar conversation in December of 2013:

    The referenced QLEO report did not have much information for the public, but it may be worth browsing (especially the price tag):

    I have asked Stephanie for the hard and fast number of upgrading the current Central building, since after 20 minutes of searching and combing through Unit 4 documents I cannot find any such information.

  24. charlesdschultz Says:

    And to address the challenge of what I would do a for a Plan B… that is a great blog post idea! 🙂 Here are some thoughts off the top of my head.

    Why plan for the 21st Century when you can plan for Inifinity? Clearly, it isn’t the buildings that matter as much as the culture and environment of equiping others. Whatever we build tomorrow will most likely be replaced with something “better” in the next century. I have nightmares of abanoned theme parks and olympic venues. Whatever we create, let’s be reasonable and realize it will only last 60-80 years. And cannot possibly hope to be ready for the physical advances in technology and engineering. For this reason, I advocate for smaller structures.

    I have said this before and I’ll say it again; I love how Lisa Delpit ends her “Other People’s Children” book, with a quote from a Native Alaskan; “In order to teach you, I must know you.” I have also quoted Lisa De La Rue’s literature review; I understand she did not find an absolute best, but she did say the research leans toward supporting an optimal school size of 600-900 students when you have a highly diverse population with large numbers of low-SES children. Large schools are more cost-efficient and tend to scale better in terms of logistics and offerings, but my belief is that they make it much harder to build and maintain meaningful relationships. A school needs to be a micro-community in the midst of the larger community of homes and families around it, I think. For this reason, I advocate for smaller structures.

    It seems urban and suburban growth always happens at the edges. In my opinion, this is not a problem in and of itself – it becomes problematic when an inordinate amount of resources are required to sustain and perpetuate growth at the cost of a healthy core. Big cities are notorious examples of this. We already see parts of the core of Champaign decaying, to the extent we now have “blighted areas” and increases in hard-to-manage (if not impossible) crime. I advocate smaller structures because it allows us to implement “in-fill” easier than facilities that require much larger footprints. This also ties in with “Relational” in that it allows for more “walkable” and “neighborhood” schools.

    In a way, this is kind of funny. Read the wikipedia entry: extracurricular activity. In my humble opinion, school districts should not have exclusive practice fields. I would rather the park districts maintain green spaces and facilities, perhaps with an intergovernmental agreement to allow schools a higher priority. I do think athletics is important for the overall health (not just physical, but emotinal as well) of children.

    Don’t vote for a tax referendum that builds a giant high school and refurbishes the second. Instead, go FIRST for a Strategic Plan that emphasizes the elements of the points above AND THEN, if needed, go for a tax referendum that slowly builds up towards these goals. The biggest problem we have right now is decades of neglect and we have to provide capacity. I say build a smaller third high school to handle the overload.

    Obviously, these are not free of problems – there are no silver-bullets. Some people will hate these ideas, some will love them, and perhaps a majority of the voters will be simply neutral.

  25. pattsi Says:

    Huh–“It seems urban and suburban growth always happens at the edges. In my opinion, this is not a problem in and of itself – it becomes problematic when an inordinate amount of resources are required to sustain and perpetuate growth at the cost of a healthy core.” Any growth at the perimeter will cost more. That is why the classic design of a city is a wheel with the services at the hub, not the rim–less cost, less traffic, compact, more equitable access, etc. History of the design of Detroit. http://www.nbm.org/about-us/national-building-museum-online/looking-back-looking-forward.html

  26. kshannon617 Says:

    I spoke at the meeting tonight and mentioned the third high school idea. I asked whether there were any policies about the ideal school size, and why weren’t we planning for a third high school at some point in the future. Get this–they referred me to the report on your website that you keep referring to. Not sure whether they realize that it posits an ideal size of 600-900. This is why I get the feeling they’re not really listening. 🙂

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Shannon, thanks for speaking up and thanks for reporting back. There is obviously a huge disconnect, and I am quite flabbergasted as to why the board has not taken steps to bridge the gap. It seems to me that the gap is only getting bigger.

  27. pattsi Says:

    Two great examples of the spoke and hub design by historically classic urban planners.

    It would be so useful if one could attached picture files.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Here are your images – in my opinion, they are very hard to read and do not help me understand the layout of an urban area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: