Urbana buys $925K property for new school after several delays

The Urbana City School District has bought a property on U.S. 68 to build a new primary school, moving the district closer to construction after several delays.

The cost of the land will be about $925,000. The district is also building a new high school on the same site as the current high school. The combined price of the two new buildings is $68 million.

The new preschool-eighth grade school is set to be built on a 70-acre patch of land between Vintage Drive-Thru and Campground Road, down the street from the Champaign County government offices.

The U.S. 68 property is the second choice for the district. It initially planned to build the new primary school near the Champaign Family YMCA on Community Drive, land it bought more than 10 years ago for the project.

However the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency informed district leaders that the proposed site could be too close to an old city landfill and questioned if methane gas or other contamination could reach the site.

The issues stopped the project from moving forward for months. Despite the set backs Superintendent Charles Thiel said he’s glad to settle on the property.

EARLIER COVERAGE: Urbana school construction on hold while landfill issue remains

“We are happy to be able to move forward with the closing on the location of the new pre-K through eighth grade school,” Thiel said. “The board has also agreed to purchase a 3-acre parcel in the northwest corner of the site.”

The district agreed to purchase the land several months ago, but held off closing on it until it could make sure it could work with the city of Urbana to build a sewer line on the property to serve the school.

The school has been paying $5,000 a month to the property owner for him to hold it for the district. That money will go toward the total price of the property.

“We are currently in discussion with the city administration about the development of a sewer line,” Thiel said. “We got a water line already available to us, but the sewer line is kind of the next thing.”

The sewer line might become something that both the city and the school use.

“It is possible that it may be a joint project and become a municipal line to serve future development,” Thiel said.

Neighbors who live in the area previously told the News-Sun that they are OK with a school being built close to them, but said they were concerned about other businesses popping up around the site. They said they enjoy the rural lifestyle in the area currently.

READ MORE: Urbana district closing in on new school site

Thiel said the district expects construction of the new school to begin soon, as most of the building plans have been completed for several months.

“We got colors picked out for the interior, pretty much the building is set,” he said. “Construction of the school will begin this spring as soon as the weather breaks.”

The building will likely take about 24 months to complete. However, it could be finished sooner if construction goes smoothly.

“The building is scheduled to be completed for the 2019-2020 school year,” he said.

High School building update

The mild weather in November and December has allowed crews to continue working on the high school, Thiel said, and the project appears to be on schedule.

While the new school is being built, classes are still being held at the old high school. On Friday, about 44 students and some employees showed signs of being ill from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Urbana Fire Chief Mark Keller said an old furnace system caused the issue. Repairs were completed Friday, Thiel said. Classes are expected to resume as normal Tuesday.

“This is one of those issues that we’re dealing with,” Thiel said. “There are systems and fan motors that are very old and that’s one of the reasons why we went to the community and asked for new buildings, and they were supportive.”

The new high school is projected to open following the spring break of the 2017-2018 school year.

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