Champaign Unit Four Voters Defeat Bond Referendum
Champaign Public Schools will have to try again for the money to build a new high school and renovate an existing one. The referendum for a $149 million-dollar bond sale failed last night — 52 percent voting no and 47 percent voting yes.
School Board President Laurie Bonnett says the district plans to do a voter analysis study, to find which residents might need more convincing. She says the district's high schools are already overcrowded, and it will only get worse without an increase to property taxes to fund construction.
"There are some that say, 'You know, I can't afford that.' And I get that," she said. "But I also don't know that we can afford not to have a place for our kids at the table, in the classroom ... So if there are community members that have a suggestion as how to add 500 seats, and, no, trailers don't count--then I'd be happy to hear their suggestions."
The bonds would have paid for construction of a new high school on the north end of Champaign, to replace the 76-year-old Champaign Central High School building, and for the expansion and renovation of 47-year-old Centennial High School.
Unit Four officials noted overcrowding at both schools, and a lack of athletic fields at Central, as well as modern learning facilities like science labs and collaborative spaces.
But many residents expressed opposition to building a “new Central High School” on the very northern edge of the city, instead of in a more central location. School officials say there was no central location available that would offer the space the new high school campus would need.
Bonnett says the district might try again on the April ballot, but may have to table the effort for the time being.