SOS! Vote ‘Yes’ to Save Our Schools

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Central High School students work in a crowded and outdated science lab. Photo: Chronicle

On November 8, voters looking at the ballot will be able to decide on an issue critical to Champaign, and I’m not talking about the presidential election. In addition to National, State, and Local races for public office, voters will be able to voice their position on the latest referendum from Unit 4. Below is the exact language voters will see on their ballots.

Shall the Board of Education of Champaign Community Unit School District Number 4, Champaign County, Illinois, alter, repair and equip the Central High School Building, build and equip additions thereto, and acquire and improve the site thereof; improve facilities at Franklin Middle School, Spalding Park, and McKinley Field; alter, repair and equip the Centennial High School Building and build and equip additions thereto; demolish the existing Dr. Howard Elementary School Building and build and equip a new Dr. Howard Elementary School Building on that site; alter, repair and equip the South Side Elementary School Building and build and equip an addition thereto; alter, repair and equip the International Prep Academy Building and build and equip additions thereto; alter, repair and equip the Edison Middle School Building and build and equip an addition thereto; and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $183,400,000 for the purpose of paying costs thereof?

Boring, right? Let’s break it down.

Narrow hallways at Central often struggle to accommodate for the growing number of students. Photo: Chronicle

The bulk of the referendum involves changes to Central High school. $87.1 million of the proposed $183.4 million would go towards improving Central. Unlike the previous proposal, the new referendum will focus on keeping Central at the core of the community, updating and providing additions to the current school and acquiring property surrounding the current site to build athletic fields.  

The next biggest expense is for Centennial High school, with plans to renovate and expand the current building. The plans include modernizing classrooms and learning spaces, as well as upgrading the on site athletic fields. This will cost $63.3 million.

Three elementary schools will also be receiving various amounts of money, totaling $33.2 million. Dr Howard, South Side, and the International Prep Academy will each look to use the same sites as before, with Dr Howard looking to demolish the current school and build a new one entirely.

Edison Middle school will receive $15 million to update the current facilities.

Finally, $9.8 million will be used to improve and add athletic fields to locations already owned by Unit 4 near Franklin and South Side to be used by Central.

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Unit 4’s property tax estimates if the referendum is passed. Photo: Unit 4

Obviously, $183.4 million is a significant amount of money, and much of the cost would be shouldered by taxpayers. Unit 4’s referendum breaks down the expected impact on taxes here.

While no doubt the tax commitment is a large one, the new referendum is an investment in the future of the community. The city of Champaign is still expanding, and improving the district’s schools will entice future growth.

Urinals at Central look straight out of a baseball park in the 1900’s. Photo: Chronicle

At the same time, renovations are long overdue at Central and many of the other schools in the district. What this really means for Central and other Unit 4 students is that they can finally receive the quality of education that they deserve.

By voting yes on the referendum plans, you can ensure that students won’t need an early out during the summer months because the school is literally too hot for students to focus. And you can also make sure that future students won’t have to walk outside to get to portable classrooms when it’s 10 degrees in the winter.

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An outdated computer lab at Central High School. Photo: Chronicle

Climate control is not the only thing you can help. As a voter, you are also making a commitment to provide our students with resources that will make them competitive in the future. Old computers, science labs, and classrooms will be modernized and renovated for the use of many future generations.

The referendum will finally allow students and teachers to work in spaces that will help them to fully realize their potential. If you are voting on November 8th, please consider the implications that this vote has for the education in our community.  A ‘Yes’ vote for the referendum is a vote for the future of Champaign for years to come.

More information on the referendum is available at http://facilityplanning.champaignschools.org/

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