To build a new high school or not? Champaign voters will decide Tuesday

CHAMPAIGN--The future of Champaign schools will be decided at the polls Tuesday, after months of discussion and debate.

"Voters tomorrow are going to be asked to weigh in on the $144 million dollar school referendum," said Unit 4 School District community relations coordinator, Stephanie Stuart.
Of those hundreds of million of dollars, 15 million will go to rebuild Doctor Howard Elementary School, while another $18.5 million will pay for an expansion Centennial High School.

Sixteen million dollars would turn the current Central High School in to Unit 4 district offices, and $94.5 million will build a brand new one.

In all, it would cost a Champaign homeowner with a $100,000 house an extra $117 in property taxes annually.

"It's $5 million less expensive than what was proposed in November," said Stuart. "As well as the addition of the Doctor Howard Elementary School. A lot of community members were voicing concern for that facility. As well as included funds for the re-purposing of the existing Central facility."

The ballot question does not specify exactly where the new Central High School would be built, but Unit 4 officials say a vote "yes" is a vote for the site on Interstate Drive--something that's been at the center of the debate leading up to this referendum.

"We support education, we support schools, but not in that location," said Neil Strack, of Keep Central Central, an organization that opposes the referendum.

"This at the time is the best option we have, our schools are already overcrowded at 103 percent," said Andy Quarnstrom, a volunteer with Friends of Champaign Schools, which has voiced its support of Unit 4 on this issue.

If the referendum is approved, the district hopes to open the doors of the new high school by the fall of 2018. But if it's defeated, it would mean more trailers as classrooms while the district decides on a plan B.

"If it doesn't pass tomorrow it's a to be continued," said Stuart. "And we'll see in terms of new school board members as well."

There are eight candidates running for four, four-year terms on the Champaign School Board in Tuesday's election. And those on every side of the issue urge voters to keep kids in mind when casting their ballot.
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