News Local/State

Unit 4 School Board Secures Options On Sites Near Central High

Champaign Unit 4 Board President Chris Kloeppel discusses the options on properties near Central High School with members Amy Armstrong, Kathy Shannon, and Laurie Bonnett.

Champaign Unit 4 Board President Chris Kloeppel discusses the options on properties near Central High School with members Amy Armstrong, Kathy Shannon, and Laurie Bonnett. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

The Champaign Unit 4 School Board has approved options on eight properties near Central High School with the exclusive option of buying them down the road.  Board President Chris Kloeppel says Monday night’s votes allow the properties to be ‘part of a conversation.’

But he says these decisions weren’t simply because of all the no votes in two failed referenda in Spring 2015 and Fall 2014 - that each sought a new Central High north of Interstate Drive.

“There’s many reasons people voted no," Kloeppel said.  "But there was a strong voice that we listened to – that we all listened to – that said, ‘hey, take a look at Central High School, and so that’s what this is.  We asked what could be possible, and these are the options that were brought forward.  We're not buying this property, and so we're able to add it to the conversation."

Kloeppel says details on the properties only came together last week.  Unit 4 has 18 months to decide whether to buy the properties.  

The district will also form an advisory committee that includes two from the school board, two Champaign city council members, two park district board members, one from Savoy, and business leaders.  The panel will meet with an architect, and have a final report by May 9th.  Kloeppel says if there's another bond issue in Fall 2016, Unit 4 would have to complete its plan by August.

Monday's school board meeting was the last for Unit 4 board member and former president Laurie Bonnett, who led the board during those two failed referenda.

"It was nice to see the options that were presented added to Central, because it does make that conversation more viable," she said.  "Before, we didn't have those options available for the community to talk about in real time."

This map highlights the potential sites that would be part of a Unit 4 expansion based around Central High School (large PDF is included below.)

Champaign Unit 4

If Unit 4 does purchase the properties near Central, Kloeppel mentioned the possibility of having a large plot of land that could house all outdoor athletic activites.

"I think this amount of property really starts to allow those conversations to happen," he said. 

Board member Lynn Stuckey said the district architect also needs to allow space for a marching band practice field.

The Unit 4 School District now holds options on four apartment buildings owned by Hurst Real Estate (201 N. Lynn St, 203 N. Lynn St., 606 West Park Ave., and 603 W. Church St.) the Christian Science Society Church and Reading Room (605 W. Hill St and 602 W. Church St.) and the former McKinley YMCA Building and adjacent house (500 W. Church St. and 606 W. Church St.)

Options on the Hurst apartment buildings were each unanimously approved, while Unit 4 Board member Lynn Stuckey and Bonnett both voted against the other sites due to cost, for both the options and the potential purchase of properties. 

The McKinley YMCA option and that for the church will each cost the district $4,000 a month.  Options on the Hurst apartment buildings cost $10,000, but half of that will go towards the purchase price if Unit 4 buys the property.  The same applies to the other two properties (half the option fee going toward the purchase price.) 

Bonnett, who's moving to Pittsburgh, was honored during the board meeting.