Area voters to consider school bond

By Kalari Girtley

In the Monday, March 6 edition of The Daily Illini, the story “Area voters to consider school bond” incorrectly states that 3,000 new students will enter the school district in the next five years. It should have read that 3,000 new homes are expected to be built during the next five years.

The power will rest in voters’ hands on March 21. An election will decide whether Unit 4 schools will benefit from an estimated $65 million bond that will assist with the improvements of more than half of their elementary schools and one high school.

A group of 40 community leaders and parents developed a referendum that will be on March’s ballot. This referendum is set to bring needed improvements to seven elementary schools and rebuild Dr. Howard Elementary School. Along with these improvements, the referendum is set to open three new elementary schools, and fund a 60-acre site for Central High School to use.

Gene Logas, chief financial officer of the Unit 4 schools, said that if the referendum is approved, it would bring needed space to the schools.

“We have English as a second language being taught in the hallway, and right next to that person is the speech teacher,” Logas said.

He said this referendum is a response to the rapid growth that Champaign is experiencing. There will be an estimated 3,000 new students coming into the school system in the next five years, Logas said.

Phillip Van Ness, co-chair of the Unit 4 Excellence committee, said this referendum is going to be hard to pass because many people do not trust the district.

“People have the right to be skeptical because for the last few years, we have not always kept our word,” Van Ness said.

He said in the past, the district had told the public that they had a surplus of funds, but was actually in a deficit.

One of the major aspects of this referendum is the rebuilding of Dr. Howard elementary. Van Ness said the school was built in 1910 and does not comply with ADA requirements.

“In order to comply with the building code, we would have to spend up to seven million,” Van Ness said. “It doesn’t make sense when we can just buy another building for 10 (million).”

Frances Burley, principal of Dr. Howard elementary, said if this referendum passes, the students and faculty members of Dr. Howard elementary would move to one of the new schools and remain for a year, then they will return to the new building.

“A new facility will enhance the learning in any place,” Burley said. “But it is the people that impact children more than the facility.”

Teresa Cardador, parent of a student who attends Dr. Howard elementary, is indecisive about her vote. She is worried about how the school will maintain a sense of community at the new location.

“It is going to be a challenge to move to the new location, and then move back,” she said.

Cardador said the teachers are doing a good job informing the parents about what will happen if this referendum passes.

“The important thing is the teachers and the parents make the best decision that they can on March 21,” she said.