April 7, 2015 Referendum Details 

Site Plans

Existing Central High School Repurposing: Coming Soon. 

Dr. Howard: Coming Soon

Centennial: Coming Soon


November 2014 Referendum Informational Materials

November 2014 Referendum Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Board of Education asking voters to approve on the November 4 ballot?

The Board of Education is proposing a $149 million bond referendum to fund the construction of a new Central High School and the extensive renovation and expansion of Centennial High School.

The $97.7 million Central High School project would provide for a 309,000 square-foot facility, including learning spaces for up to 1,700 students, two gymnasiums, parking, green spaces, and on-site athletic fields. The new school would become the site of the District’s competition swimming pool. The school would also target LEED Certification and utilize green building practices in order to increase energy efficiency and long-term sustainability.

The $51.3 million renovation and expansion of Centennial High School would provide for extensive interior improvements as well as a 92,500 square-foot addition to the existing 202,000 square-foot facility, for a total of 294,500 square feet. The school would provide learning spaces for up to 1,700 students, an additional gymnasium, and significant improvements to classrooms, mechanical systems, technology infrastructure, and safety features.

The bond issue would be paid through property taxes.

Why are these projects needed and how will the approval of this referendum improve education for students?

Our community high schools are currently overcapacity. Central and Centennial High Schools are currently operating at more than 103% capacity and will be operating at 120% capacity by 2022 if nothing is done to address the high school facilities.

It has also become increasingly challenging to deliver a 21st Century high school education in both the current Central and Centennial facilities. The District’s strategic plan, Great Schools, Together, outlines the community’s standards for school facilities and neither high school is meeting the standards set by the strategic plan.

Built in 1938, originally as a junior high, Central High School features small classrooms, dated electrical wiring, no air conditioning, limited parking, and lacks specialty facilities. Central High School is also landlocked at its current location and does not offer on-site athletic and extracurricular fields.

Centennial High School opened in 1967, and while it is the newer of the two schools, Centennial is nearly 50 years old and has not seen a major renovation since its construction. The facility is in need of updated mechanical and electrical service, safety features, energy efficiency measures, specialist areas, science labs, industrial technology spaces, and collaborative learning spaces. Centennial is also currently utilizing a trailer classroom to temporarily accommodate the growing student population.

How will the Central & Centennial Referendum impact my tax bill? How does this compare to other communities? What happens when the bonds for this project are paid off?

If passed, the projects would result in a tax increase of $140.09 per year for each $100,000 of assessed home value, or approximately $11.67 per month. Unit 4 currently has the lowest tax rate of any school district in the Big 12 Conference and, based on current tax rates, would remain the lowest if voters approve the proposed referendum.

Tax rate comparison chart.

What is the cost impact of delaying?

Estimates are projected to the midpoint of construction. With a November 2014 election, the midpoint of the project is 2016. Based on an escalation factor of 3% per year, taxpayers can anticipate the following impact:

  • 2015 increase (2017 midpoint of construction) = $4,500,000 increase over 2014 estimate
  • 2016 increase (2018 midpoint of construction) = $9,135,000 increase over 2014 estimate
  • 2017 increase (2019 midpoint of construction) = $13,909,050 increase over 2014 estimate

How much time do we have left to address the capacity issues at our high schools?

The District is currently running out of time to address the capacity issues at our high schools. By 2022, the District’s facilities will be at 120% capacity. If a referendum is passed in November, the process to design and construct a new Central facility would take 3-4 years due to the project size.

This means that students currently in 5th grade would be the first freshman class in a new Central High School.

The construction staging of a new Centennial High School has not yet been determined but may be completed either simultaneously or following the completion of a new Central High School.

The Board of Education is bringing this issue to the voters now in order to see that the high school projects completed in time to meet the critical capacity need.

How do the Central & Centennial facilities measure up against other Big 12 Schools?

Champaign’s high schools are the two smallest in the Big 12 despite serving one of the largest student populations. Below you will find graphs that show overall school size, and also a comparison of square footage provided for each student.


High School Size comparison chart.


Chart showing square feet per student compared to surrounding districts


Will a new Central and renovated/expanded Centennial provide spaces for community collaborations on-site?

Yes. The new Central High School and renovated Centennial High School would provide spaces within the school to support community collaboration in the STEM fields, building and construction trades, entrepreneurship, as well as with community service agencies beyond what is available at the current facilities.

Will a new Central and renovated/expanded Centennial support trades and career and technical education?

A new Central High School and renovated/expanded Centennial will support education in the trades as well as the other career and technical career areas by providing students with dedicated spaces and instructors in career and technical education. The District is currently partnering with the local building trades to expand these opportunities and provide on-site opportunities for students to be exposed to careers in the trades.

How will the new location of Central High School impact transportation?

After the passage of a referendum, reassessing the attendance boundaries for Central and Centennial High Schools would be necessary. Given this unknown factor, it is difficult to accurately assess the exact transportation impact or costs. However, the District is currently working with local partners such as the City of Champaign, Regional Planning Commission, and the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) to assess the impact on traffic and transportation for the new high school site. While early reports indicate that busing costs through MTD may increase, that does not take into account the expansion of the District’s own bus fleet, redistricting, or grant opportunities that would be available to offset many of these costs.

The new Central site would for the first time provide a comprehensive campus that would allow Central students to stay on campus after school to participate in extracurricular activities. Central is currently the only school in the Big 12 Conference without on-site facilities. Students are therefore responsible for finding daily offsite travel to a number of locations around town before and after school.

What happens if nothing is done?

If nothing is done to address the capacity needs at the high schools, the District will face overcrowding and additional trailer classrooms at both schools will be required. At Centennial High School, for example, up to 34 additional instructional spaces will be needed to accommodate a student population of 1,700 students, which is the expected enrollment starting in 2022.

In their professional opinion, District staff has determined that this space-related issue would provide a diminished experience for all students and the high schools. Both high schools would continue to operate while not meeting the community’s expectations for school facilities as outlined in the Great Schools, Together strategic plan.

Where has the Board of Education purchased land for a new Central High School? 

The Board of Education has purchased a site for a new Central High School on Interstate Drive next to the Ashland Park subdivision.  

How large is the site? How much did it cost the District?  

The site is 80 acres and cost the District $3.2 million. 

How did the District fund the purchase of land for a new Central High School site?  

In 2009, voters approved a county-wide 1% sales tax. $2.6 million in funds from that revenue stream were set aside to purchase a site for a new Central High School. The District is seeking to fund the remainder of the purchase price with the sale of property. 

How will the District fund the construction of a new Central High School facility?  

Now that the land has been purchased, a referendum will need to be passed by the voters to fund the construction of a new high school facility.  

What was the process the Board and District used to select this site?  

The discussion around building a new Central High School has been ongoing since 2006. Since then, the Board of Education has held nine community meetings in addition to its regular Board of Education meetings to discuss this topic more in depth. During the 2012-2013 school year, the District began the Future Facilities process with the help of public engagement firm DeJong-Richter. More than 1,500 individuals participated in community meetings, online questionnaires, focus groups, and phone polls conducted to gather feedback about the District’s school facilities and what its priorities should be moving forward.  

This year, the Board contracted with Gorski Reifsteck to uncover any interior high school sites that were not yet under consideration and assist the Board in identifying the site that best fits the District’s needs. The Board began with a list of 16 possible sites. 

Of the available sites, the Board examined each site objectively and looked at factors such as transportation costs, size, and accessibility. It narrowed the list to six and then four, taking the time to further examine the final sites with a team of engineers. It determined that the District would purchase the final site on Interstate Drive due to its proximity to the community compared to other available sites, existing city infrastructure, and room for future growth. This site was announced to the community on January 27, 2014.  

Why is the Board looking to replace Central? Why can’t it be renovated instead?  

It has become increasingly challenging to deliver a 21st Century high school education in the current Central facility. Built in 1938, originally as a junior high, Central High School features small classrooms, dated electrical wiring, no air conditioning, limited parking, and lacks specialty facilities. 

The cost to renovate the current Central building  would be nearly $59.4 million (DeJong-Richter facilities study), but the school would still have many of the same limitations that exist today including offsite sports fields and limited parking.  

If you are interested in taking a tour of the current Central High School, please feel free to contact Principal Joe Williams at  

But the new site isn’t “central.” Why is this?  

No sites of adequate size were available within the core of the city to accommodate a comprehensive high school facility. At least 47 net acres are required to build a new high school to meet our community’s needs according to industry standards of a comparable high school site. The current 80 acre site accommodates this and allows room for future growth.  

We know through the student density analysis completed by DeJong-Richter that the population center of our community is near the intersection of Mattis Avenue and John Street. This means that Centennial High School is actually a more “centralized” campus than the current Central facility. Another finding from this work indicates the population growth is trending from Southwest to Northeast.  

Why do we need two high schools? Why don’t we consolidate into one large high school? 

This was an idea discussed throughout the Future Facilities process but was not popular among school officials or community members. With roughly 3,000 high school students on one campus versus two, participation in athletic programs, theater productions, music groups, and others would be more competitive rather than inclusive for students to access. With a school of that size, we would also need to travel to the Chicago area to compete in athletics with schools of similar size since other area schools would be considerably smaller. This arrangement would also change the distinct identities of Central and Centennial high schools within our community. Community feedback we have gathered throughout the site selection process has indicated that the community is not in favor of this configuration. 

Why wasn’t the Country Fair site selected?  

Country Fair was a site given strong consideration by our District and many in the community.  The selection process utilized by the DLR/Gorski Reifsteck/Berns Clancy team determined that the Country Fair site would not meet student learning requirements or be cost effective for the District and the Unit 4 Community.  Here is an outline of factors compiled by the team that negatively impacted the Country Fair site: 

  • The available site area is less than the 47 net acres required by the overall facility program.  According to a legal survey prepared by Berns Clancy on June 26, 2013, the Country Fair property consists of 32.39 acres (gross).  There are other adjacent properties at the northwest and southwest corners of the Country Fair “block” that could add an estimated 5.87 acres.  In all, it appears the entire Country Fair block could total approximately 38.26 gross acres at a maximum. A site of this size does not lend itself to a typical high school building solution (3 floors or less) and would require extraordinary design measures with placement of outdoor program elements on the rooftop and a multistory parking garage.  Even with those measures it is likely that additional program reductions would be required. 
  • The site itself is not expandable beyond the above survey description of 38.26 acres, hampering future projected growth.  The site constraints would not allow for future expansion and student population growth, putting the District back into its current high school situation in another 20-30 years. 
  • Ameren Illinois informed the District that upgrades/reinforcement of their utilities would be required.  Electrical service would require significant upgrades while natural gas would require lesser, but not insignificant, upgrades. 
  • Additional traffic control and traffic access changes would be required. This work is complicated by the fact that, in this location, both Springfield Avenue and Mattis Avenue are state highways under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), not the city.  Access to the site is limited by the I-72 exit. Additionally, turns from I-72/University would not be permitted into the site.  
  • It is our understanding the Country Fair property is not for sale.  The negotiation process would likely be lengthy.  It is also our opinion that purchase of the property would be expensive and may include purchase of leases for many tenants and businesses on that site. 
  • This site has significant, additional costs for demolition of existing buildings.  Due to the age of these buildings, there is a likelihood that hazardous materials would be uncovered and require abatement and or remediation prior to demolition.  Potential underground tank removal (and possible contamination) as well as demolition of the bank vault would add to the demolition and site preparation costs. 
  • To offset the loss of sales taxes from the existing commercial site, the city is considering establishing a tax increment financing district over a larger area extending several blocks north and south along Mattis Avenue.  It is unclear at this point what impacts this could have on the school site. 
  • The Mass Transit District would require space on site for a bus transfer area, not calculated within the net acreage, therefore adding further constraints to an already undersized site for the planned use. 
  • Storm water detention would have to be underground, adding to construction costs. 
  • Land acquisition costs are estimated to be $11,000,000 and between $3,000,000-$4,000,000 or more for demolitions and hazardous material abatement. 

I hear the District’s high schools are over capacity. Is this true and by how much?   

As of last year, Central and Centennial were at 103% capacity according to the Illinois State Board of Education Standard Utilization Factor for determining effective building capacity. The last three school years have brought record levels of kindergarten enrollment, which will lead to further overcrowding of our high schools if no action is taken. In fact, once our current Kindergarten through Third Grade students reach high school in the year 2022-2023, our existing high school facilities will be at approximately 120% capacity.  

Is the new site within the city limits? Are utility hookups accessible on the site?  

The property is well within the Unit 4 School District boundaries. District boundaries continue north for an additional 4.5 miles. The area to the north of the site is zoned for residential housing in the future. The southern 40 acres of the new Central site are within the city limits and have utility hookups. MTD currently serves this area, as well as the UC2B fiber connection.  Annexation will be required for the northern 40 acres of the site.  

Why not create separate freshman/sophomore and junior/senior campuses?  

Reorganizing students by grade level does not address the capacity issues we are facing at our high schools. Additionally, students from all grade levels frequently enroll in many of the same courses and not all students are in courses with only students within their grade level group. The District does not believe that separating underclassmen from upperclassmen would support student learning and opportunities in the way we currently can with two high schools housing grades 9-12.  This arrangement would also change the distinct identities of Central and Centennial high schools within our community. Community feedback we have gathered throughout the site selection process has indicated that the community is not in favor of this configuration.  

How much will all of this cost to taxpayers?  

In the coming months, the Board of Education will hire an architecture firm to assist the District in designing a facility to meet the educational needs of the new high school. This program design will include details such as square footage, science labs, auditoriums, music practice spaces, collaborative spaces, parking, and athletic facilities. The architects will also take a look at the renovation needs and expansion of Centennial High School. This work, which will include a considerable amount of input from the school community, will determine the overall cost to taxpayers. These findings, as well as an updated long-term facilities plan, will be presented to the community before any referendum appears on the ballot.   

Will a facility at this location require redistricting for the two high schools? 

Redistricting is something that takes place every 10 years, and will be required if a new high school facility is constructed. If a referendum is passed, all students will benefit from either a newly constructed or renovated high school facility.  

The Interstate Drive site the District purchased for a new Central High School is not in the heart of Champaign. Is the site even close to a residential area?

Many of our students reside in the area surrounding the Interstate Drive site and will be able to walk to the new campus.  Currently, 471 students live within walking distance of the site on Interstate Drive. For more information on student density and population location, please visit the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission presentation from December 2, 2013 on our website (

In the City of Champaign’s Champaign Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan (, adopted in 2011, it has planned growth and development in the area surrounding the Interstate site. Over the past few years, the City has spent money adding infrastructure and utilities to prepare for this growth. In addition, the Emergency Services department is evaluating the need for a new fire station in response to residential growth in the area.

The District recently surveyed students at both Central and Centennial High Schools. At the current Central High School, only 10% of the student population walks or bikes to school. At Centennial, 11% of students walk or bike to school. The majority of students—88%—travel to and from school by car, yellow bus, or MTD.

Why did the Board purchase such a large site when smaller sites were available?

Currently, Central High School sits on 5.9 acres and does not offer comparable physical education fields or extracurricular facilities on site as its sister school, Centennial does. Additionally, Central High School does not have access to adequate parking for staff and students, who are forced to park in the surrounding neighborhood. Centennial High School has access to approximately 45 acres on and around its site. To provide equity at both high schools, the Board opted to purchase the 80-acre Interstate Drive site to allow for development of a new high school campus and future land banking. During the site selection process, the District’s architectural team developed parameters to accommodate on-site programmatic equity, as well as 21st Century learning environments. More detailed programming and planning work is underway through early summer and encompasses planning at both high school campuses. The Central High School program dashboard ( outlines a need for 47 “net” acres with additional acreage required for storm water detention, as well as other outdoor academic programs under consideration. Additionally, this site allows space for an additional school to be constructed in the future due to current enrollment growth in the District.

I’ve heard the Board’s decision to purchase the Interstate site for a future high school was driven by athletics. Is this statement true?

No. The Board’s decision to purchase the Interstate site was based on providing equitable educational spaces at both Central and Centennial High Schools for essential programs such as STEM, health and wellness, foreign language, band, fine and performing arts, as well as the core curriculum and athletics. Currently, Central High School is lacking adequate space for physical education, band, and extracurricular facilities on site. Next year, nearly 200 students are signed up for the Central Marching Band, which must travel off site using school buses to practice at Centennial. Both high schools are in need of updated facilities and more classroom space to accommodate growing enrollment. With a larger site, students at Central High School will have access to the same physical education and extracurricular facilities as students at Centennial High School. In a recent survey of students, 67% of respondents said they would be more likely to participate in extracurricular activities if facilities were available on site. In addition, both high schools will offer the same educational programs and facilities that support life skills to ensure our students are career and college ready.

What will happen if nothing is done to address the capacity needs of our high schools?

If nothing is done to address the capacity needs at the high schools, the District will face overcrowding and additional trailer classrooms at both schools. At Centennial High School, for example, up to 34 additional instructional spaces will be needed to accommodate a student population of 1,700 students, which is the expected enrollment starting in 2022.

How will the Interstate Drive site impact traffic?

In a traffic impact analysis of the Interstate Drive site, conducted by the Regional Planning Commission, determined that the median distance traveled by existing Central students would increase by 2.5 miles or 4 minutes. Once attendance boundaries are adjusted, the District anticipates this distance and time to decrease. Right now, four minutes is the amount of time it takes students to walk to school from their street parking spaces in the neighborhood surrounding the current Central High School.

What are a new Central High School and renovated Centennial High School going to cost taxpayers?

The District has engaged architects, Champaign-based Gorski Reifsteck and nationally renowned DLR Group, to program and plan for a new Central High School and a re-imagined Centennial High School. They are currently in the process of designing an educational program to meet the needs of the District that will help to determine building size and cost for both projects. More information will available in the coming months as plans are finalized.

I’ve heard the Board of Education purchased a site on Interstate Drive but also looked into the possibilities at Spalding Park. What is the current status?

Following a comprehensive search for the school site that included more than 18 available properties, the Board purchased the 80-acre site for $3.2 million in January 2014. In April 2014, the Park District Board of Commissioners brought forward the possibility of Spalding Park, which was previously unavailable for the School District to consider. After fully investigating possibilities at Spalding Park, the School Board concluded that it would not move forward in seeking to acquire that site for the new school due to its limitations, which included the site size, significant additional costs related to land acquisition and construction, logistical challenges of site acquisition, impact on Franklin Middle School, parking, ability to expand the school in the future, and the impact on residents of the Spalding Park neighborhood, among others.

How much land is available at the current site of South Side Elementary School/Mellon Administrative Center/McKinley Field? 

The current South Side Elementary School, Mellon Administrative Center, and McKinley Field area is approximately 13.3 acres. 

How does the Interstate Drive site impact student transportation?

Currently, students who attend Central High School must travel off site for extracurricular practices and competitions (see map below). Because students must arrange for personal transportation to and from practices, family and work schedules are affected. By including these facilities on site at the new Central High School, personal transportation challenges would be eliminated.  The District is also committed to working with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD) to provide community and parent access to the school site.

During the site selection process, the District commissioned a study from the Regional Planning Commission ( to determine the transportation burden on minority and low-income students on all of the final sites. It was determined that the Interstate Drive site represents a lessened transportation burden for African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and low-socioeconomic students and families.


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.

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 academics 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:

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:

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

To rebuild 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? 

The results of the Community Phone Survey are available for viewing and download here.

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%. 

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.


Archived Questions About Possible Spalding Park Location

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:

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:

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:

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. 

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

I’ve heard a Benefit Cost Analysis was completed by someone at the University that states there would be an additional $140 million in operational costs and favored the District’s use of Spalding Park instead? Is this study accurate or credible? I thought Spalding Park was no longer under consideration?

The Champaign Park District is moving forward with alternate plans to redevelop Spalding Park, and the space is no longer under consideration for the new Central High School.


The Benefit Cost Analysis that was developed by Brian Deal at the University of Illinois and paid for by Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District was released prematurely while in draft form. The District does not consider this to be a credible report. Upon review, the report was based on a number of faulty assumptions that resulted in flawed conclusions, including the availability and adequacy of Spalding Park for a comprehensive high school; the assumption that the school district would not redistrict as a result of opening the new high school; inflated health costs and consequences that did not take into consideration the educational programming and on-site facilities available to students; and the assumption that the community would lose a considerable amount of guaranteed tax income based on the site.

Why isn’t Dr. Howard Elementary School included in the November Referendum? What is the plan for this facility?

For many years, the District has known that there would be more facilities in need of renovation or attention than there was funding available. In order to prioritize these projects and determine the future direction of the District's facilities, the Board and District worked to engage the community during the 2012-2013 school year and asked specifically about building priorities by level. The overwhelming feedback received was that the District should address the needs of the two high schools first. As a community school district, the Board weighed this community feedback heavily in their decision-making on this issue. You can review the engagement efforts and documentation from that process here:


Another issue that continues to bring high school facilities to the top of the priority list is capacity. Our Central and Centennial campuses are currently over capacity with continued growth on the horizon. At the elementary school level, capacity issues have been largely addressed by bringing a 12th elementary school online, the International Prep Academy.


While Centennial is the newer of the two high schools, it is still a 50 year old facility that half of our District's students will attend as they matriculate through our system. Centennial is in need of interior renovation, expansion, and updated safety and mechanical systems. Undertaking a project of that size, even for a renovation, is costly.


That being said, the District and Board understand that there are facility needs at Dr. Howard and plan to address them. Board members explored including a new Dr. Howard K-8 facility as part of the November referendum, but agreed that adding a $30 million project would have been too much to ask of taxpayers. The District has been meeting with Principal Jill Trentz to discuss more short-term solutions to Dr. Howard's facility needs until funding will be available through the 1% sales tax in 2025. At that time, the project could be funded through an existing funding stream instead of placing additional tax burden on homeowners.

I’m concerned the District isn’t building/renovating high schools large enough. What happens when we are at capacity at our high schools built for 1,700?

The 1,700 capacity for the new Central and expanded Centennial currently provides some "cushion" as we project each school population to be in the 1,600s by 2022. Taking that into consideration, planning for future growth or "bubbles" in enrollment is key. For that reason, our high schools will be using an 88% utilization (capacity) model, which is an industry standard. This means there will be room to accommodate bubble classes as they matriculate through our schools if needed. While this is not forecasted based on information currently available, the new Central site has land available for expansion should that become necessary down the road.

If the referendum passes in November, what is the timeline for construction at Centennial High School?

At Centennial High School, the proposed construction plans would come in phases, beginning with a new classroom addition on the South end of the building. The timing of this project would depend on what the local labor force can handle at the time and is yet to be determined. However, the District would aim to begin construction as soon as possible upon completion of the design process.

Why is there currently a trailer at Centennial High School and why is it located in the front of the school?

Currently, a trailer housing two classroom spaces is being utilized at Centennial High School to accommodate the school’s growing student population. The trailer is located in front of the school because that location is most accessible to utility hookups and is closest to the core of the building for safety purposes. At this time, the District’s two high schools are operating at 103% capacity. By 2022, the District anticipates enrollment to be at 120% capacity if nothing is done to address this issue. The District anticipates the need to utilize additional trailer classrooms to meet capacity needs if the referendum does not pass.  

How much debt does the District currently have and how is it being managed? Will the District be able to take on the debt of these construction projects once the referendum passes?

Currently, the District has approximately $106 million in debt, $86.125 million of which is the result of bonding funds from the County-Wide 1% Sales Tax. Even with an additional $149 million in bonds issued to support the high school projects, the District would only reach roughly 63% of its debt limit. Once approved by the voters, this new debt would be backed by District property taxes, not by the District’s operating budget. 

What new academic offerings will be available to students with the proposed new facilities?

The proposed new Central High School and renovated/expanded Centennial High School would not only provide students and teachers with 21st Century classrooms, but also make room for new academic program offerings.

Career & Technical Education programs offered today include:

  • Central High School – Business, Family & Consumer Science, Industrial Technology
  • Centennial High School – Business, Family & Consumer Science

A new Central High School and renovated/expanded Centennial High School could offer courses and build on existing community partnerships in the following areas:

  • Manufacturing
  • Building Trades
  • Auto-mechanics
  • Science Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
  • Robotics
  • Broadcast Journalism
  • Entrepreneurship

I’ve heard a pool will be built at the new Central High School and that the District will close the pool at Centennial. Is this true and why can’t the District keep both pools?

The District plans to build a pool at the new Central High School but has not ruled out the possibility of renovating the current Centennial pool. This renovation may necessitate some compromises in other areas in the design process. However, the District is open to having that discussion with families, staff, and the community as part of that design process following the passage of a referendum.

Can I see a more detailed cost breakdown of the proposed high school construction projects before I make a decision on how I will vote in the upcoming election?

The costs of the proposed projects include the following:

$97.7 Million for New Central High School

  • Building Construction: $64,204,000 
  • Site Construction: $10,458,799 
  • Indirect Costs: $18,079,400 
  • Off-Site Improvements: $2,083,564 
  • Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment $2,800,000 

$51.3 Million for Renovated & Expanded Centennial

  • Building Construction: $18,268,000 
  • Renovations: $20,623,000 
  • Site Construction: $2,512,526
  • Indirect Costs: $7,116,174
  • Furn., Fixtures & Equip. $2,800,000 

Total = $149 Million

Building costs include all material costs and labor to install just for the building--for example, footings, walls, roofs, electrical, plumbing, mechanical systems, and safety and security infrastructure.  Site construction costs are the same but just for the site work, including parking lots, fields, utilities, bus loops, earth work, drainage, etc.   Indirect Costs are costs that support the building construction, such as insurance, environmental investigations, permits, engineering fees, etc. 

How much does Unit 4 currently spend annually per student and how does it compare to other school districts around the state?

This information is available as part of the District and State report cards. You can view the District’s report card here:

The 2011-2012 (most recent available) operating expenditure per student is as follows:

  • Champaign Unit 4 Schools: $11,585
  • State: $11,842

Why isn’t the District using the 1% sales tax to fund the high school construction projects?

In 2009, voters approved a county-wide 1% sales tax. As promised, revenues received from the 1% were used to purchase a site for a new Central High School. In addition to land acquisition, these funds have improved existing and built two new facilities at the elementary school level, including:

  • Booker T. Washington STEM Academy
  • Carrie Busey (Savoy)
  • Garden Hills
  • Westview
  • Bottenfield
  • Robeson
  • Kenwood (Expected Fall 2015)

While this funding stream does not allow the District to access enough funds to build a new Central High School and renovate/expand Centennial High School, additional funding from the 1% sales tax will become available in 2025 to address additional needs on the District’s Master Facility Plan, including Dr. Howard Elementary School.  For more information about how the funds from the 1% sales tax have been utilized, please visit:

What is the history of the process to site Central High School? I've heard it's a long process but what are all the things the school district has considered over the years? 

Recently, local attorney Mike Tague submitted a memorandum to the Board of Education and Superintendent outlining the long road to site Central High School. Tague has worked with the District throughout this process and offers an interesting perspective on the process and the many possibilities that were explored and considered throughout the years. You can read a copy of this memorandum here:

What is the District’s debt limit and how does it compare to other school districts? 

Please refer to the chart below that indicates the District’s current debt, debt upon the passage of a referendum, and a comparison with area Districts. 

School District Debt Comparison Chart

Does the District have in place a deferred maintenance plan? How will these needs be addressed since this is not included in the referendum?   

The District has in place a 10 Year Capital Improvement Plan that addresses anticipated District repairs, improvements, and health life safety requirements (HLS) over the next 10 years.  This plan does not impact the Operations and Maintenance Budget for regular annual maintenance items.  You can view the plan here: HLS8Oct14.pdf 

What school construction projects are included in the District’s Master Facility Plan? What is the estimated date for these future projects and what revenue sources will support these school facilities projects?  

The District Master Facility Plan was designed to take an overall view of our facilities on a 20 year timeline. The plan focuses on meeting enrollment capacity, combining building function into fewer buildings, and improving educational adequacy and providing an option to the community for K-8 instruction. The plan is based on providing flexibility for future Boards. 

  • New Central: Referendum 2014 
  • Centennial Addition/Renovation: Referendum 2014 
  • Central Repurpose: Completed in phases using revenues from sale of property (consolidation of programs) 
  • Dr. Howard: 2025-26 with 1% sales tax revenues 
  • International Prep Academy (IPA): Continue to upgrade with existing O/M revenues 
  • Edison: 2034-35 with 1% sales tax revenues 
  • Franklin: 2034-35 with 1% sales tax revenues 
  • Jefferson: 2034-35 with 1% sales tax revenues 
  • South Side: 2034-35 with 1% sales tax revenues 

If the referendum passes, how can I find out how much it will cost me personally?

Generally, the bond referendum will cost a taxpayer $11.67 per month for each $100,000 of assessed value or Estimated Fair Cash Value of your home as determined by the County Assessor’s office. This varies slightly from the market value of a home, or what a person may offer you today for the property. 

The financial impact on an individual depends on the Assessor’s Estimated Fair Cash Value of your property and the number of exemptions your household can take. As a taxpayer in Champaign Unit 4 School District, if you take the following steps, you should be able to estimate the anticipated cost of your annual investment upon passage of the referendum. 

  1. Find what the Assessor believes your home’s Estimated Fair Cash Value or Assessed Value is by clicking on the following link: and enter your address. 
  2. Find your property’s Taxing Value (Includes exemptions and equalization factors) 
  3. Multiply the Taxing Value by 0.0051 (the anticipated increase to the District’s existing tax rate). This increase in the tax rate is anticipated based on the School District’s current total property value. 
  4. This number would reflect the anticipated annual increase in your property tax bill. 

Example 1. A property with an Assessor’s Estimated Fair Cash Value of $100,000 with an Owner Occupied Exemption of $6,000. 

  1. Assessor’s Estimated Fair Cash Value= $100,000 
  2. Taxing Value= $27,333
  3. Anticipated referendum tax rate increase if voter approved=0.0051
  4. $27,333
    $139.40 Anticipated First Year Annual Referendum Impact
    $11.61 Anticipated Monthly Impact

Example 2. An actual property tax bill as found on the Champaign County Website. Refer to sample chart below. The current tax rate on the chart below, of 7.2121, includes all taxing districts. Champaign CUSD #4’s portion of that tax rate is 4.3014. 

  1. Assessor’s Estimated Fair Cash Value: $207,471
  2. Taxing Value: $63,150, please note the $6,000 Owner Occupied Exemption on the chart.
  3. Anticipated referendum tax rate increase if voter approved =0.0051
  4. $63,150
    $322.07 Anticipated First Year Annual Referendum Impact
    $26.84 Anticipated Monthly Impact