By Laura Weisskopf Bleill
My oldest daughter recently entered middle school. High school, it would seem, isn’t far behind.
Cue the cries of “Sunrise, Sunset” and “it happens so fast.” Yes, we are all getting older.
A few years ago, when high school seemed OH SO FAR AWAY, the community was mired in confusion and controversy over what to do with overcrowding and aging buildings serving our oldest students.
But now that high school IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER, it’s fun to consider the possibilities, and watch the visioning of the new-and-improved Central High School.
The facilities improvement plan now underway, following the passing of the referendum in November 2016, means that six Champaign Unit 4 buildings will be renovated (and in the case of Dr. Howard Elementary, rebuild on the same site): Central, Centennial, Dr. Howard, South Side, IPA, and Edison Middle School.
(For information about the referendum and facility projects, visit http://referendumprojects.champaignschools.org/)
The decision by Champaign Unit 4 Schools taxpayers to support the improvements across six facilities may prove to be one of the most seminal decisions ever voted on in a local election.
Put quite simply, the improvement of our high schools will be transformational for our community. It will fundamentally alter the educational opportunities of our best and most critical future “asset”: our children.
Of course such decisions don’t come without sacrifice from many parties, as well as compromises along the way.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, when the Champaign City Council will vote on a challenge to the plan the district has created for Central’s future. The vote at hand will be whether the Council “finds it is in the best interest of the public good and welfare to designate the hereinafter described real
estate as a Landmark”, noting that it has a denial from the city’s own Plan Commission, which voted in November against approving this designation.
If the address in question receives such status, it will present substantial barriers to using that property – purchased lawfully by the district – for the Central High School project. As a growing community, our schools will need to respond, and will need a footprint to make that happen. And sensational headlines about parking lots devalue the role of teachers and other staff who are the lifeblood of our schools.
Those who want such a designation have not provided any viable solutions, nor financial resources, regarding the property.
Kudos to those passionate about preservation. The broader community certainly shares those values, as shown in the referendum vote which kept Central in its neighborhood. Edison, South Side and Central are a combined 279 years old.
But preservation and progress require compromise.
Kudos to the Champaign City Council, which included “Support Unit 4 School District with their Future Facility Planning” in its most recent vision and goals statements.
A vote approving such a status will be an unfunded mandate from the City Council to the district. It runs counter to the wish of voters.
I know that the Champaign City Council will vote to do the right thing on Tuesday. That vote will support the future of our community, and its greatest asset: the education of our children.
Please weigh in and help the City Council understand how you feel about this issue, you can contact them here:
To contact individual council members, visit champaignil.gov/council.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill is the mom-in-chief of chambanamoms.com. Her family has three children in the Champaign Unit 4 School District. Over the years she has been a vocal critic — as well as a vocal supporter — of the district. You can reach Laura at email@example.com.