David Sholem, Oct 5 2014, Chamber 17


Thanks for your thoughts. Although our perspectives differ, I appreciate your ability to discuss the issues on their merits. There is no perfect high school solution for Unit 4 and there are limited available dollars. Hence, the challenges for the school board and the Unit 4 administration are great. I told Judy Wiegand that she has the hardest job in Champaign and I truly believe that statement is true.

You suggested that we seek “common ground” which should be that Central High School needs to be replaced. I suggest our common ground should be agreement that Central High School needs to be either (a) replaced or (b) renovated and expanded, rather than presuming a new high school structure must be built.

I was surprised you indicated it is embarrassing to consider renovating and expanding the current Central HS campus. To the contrary, I believe the Board of Education must consider the Central High School renovation/expansion option, as well as the Centennial/Jefferson and Judah Christian/Spalding Park alternatives, to show that it is proceeding in a fiscally prudent fashion. All the alternative sites appear to be less expensive than the costs associated with constructing a new high school at the northern site. Selecting a more centrally located high school site would also reduce Unit 4’s transportation costs by approximately $400,000 per year, a figure which will grow over time due to inflation.

I have seen 75+ year old school buildings in Chicago and New York which have been successfully renovated and expanded. Likewise in Urbana. Central High School is structurally sound and could work well with a new addition and an expanded campus which includes the McKinley YMCA property.

That having been said, I don’t know which high school site is best for Champaign. An all-city high school at Centennial/Jefferson might be best for programming and athletic facilities reasons.

Regardless of the final decision, I preferred a thorough, objective analysis of all available sites, with the economics of each site fully considered, before time, money, energy and emotions were invested in a bond referendum proposal.  As currently presented, the $150 million bond referendum seems premature, destined to fail and likely to leave us all back to square one.

As you noted, we can agree to disagree. Have a good Sunday.



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