School board not sure of new site

By Megan McNamara

The Champaign Unit 4 School Board resumed discussion on building a school in the southern part of the city, possibly near the Savoy border.

The issue was raised in a March referendum, which did not pass, and school board members offered reasons for this.

“The further south you go (to build), the more difficult it is to get voters behind it,” said David W. Tomlinson, school board member.

“I have no problem with Savoy, but Champaign voters should be marketed a school ‘in the southern end of the district’ rather than ‘in Savoy,'” Tomlinson continued..

Board member Arlene M. Blank concurred, adding that “We now have a park next to what would be the school if it was in Prairie Fields. … . If it was moved further south, who would put the proper structures in for a park? That would just be an extra expense for the school district.”

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While board members expressed their gratitude to the developer for donating land for the school in southern Champaign, they stressed that unless a referendum was passed, nothing could happen.

The $65 million bond referendum that failed to pass in March was designed to give the district enough money to build two elementary schools and completely renovate Dr. Howard Elementary. One of the new schools was going to be built at the site in Savoy, and the other would be built north of University Avenue in Champaign.

The district is under a consent decree requiring them to build a school north of University Avenue before any other schools can be built.

That school is supposed to serve primarily black communities residing in northern Champaign neighborhoods.

The site for the school north of University Avenue was not picked until the weeks leading up to the vote on the referendum.