Urbana City Schools officials may have to request more time to investigate a piece of property they want to purchase for the new elementary/middle school building.
The school board authorized district administration to purchase 68.9 acres on the east side of South U.S. Route 68 between Vintage Drive Thru and Campground Road in May. The authorization included a 90-day due diligence investigation of the property to ensure it meets all the district’s needs for the new school building.
The district has been looking at another site for the elementary/middle school after difficulties cropped up with land the district had planned on using for the building off Community Drive. Some of those issues include roadway access and concerns with methane gas migration from the city of Urbana’s former landfill next door.
Superintendent Charles Thiel said Tuesday the deadline to decide whether to purchase the property is Aug. 8. The district and its contractors are still investigating traffic and utility access, and he said he does not think they will meet that deadline. But there is a provision in the property purchase agreement that allows for the district to ask for an additional 60 days, at a $5,000 fee.
Thiel said some of the items needing resolution include how to get utilities to the site of the building and managing traffic along that busy U.S. Route 68 corridor. The school district wants to have only one main entrance to the school with secondary access for emergency personnel only off Campground Road. The utilities are accessible from Route 68, but Thiel said they were looking at better ways to access those utilities to reduce curb cuts and traffic.
Another consideration is the school speed limit along that stretch of road. Not far down the road, the former Lawnview School will have its slower school speed limit restored now that the Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center has moved its operations to that building. The ESC operates various programs, including a preschool.
Thiel said the distance between the property and the ESC building would likely create two separate school speed limit slowdown areas, with a short break in between. Thiel said they are investigating how that would work, of it they could be combined.
The district is moving forward with the high school demolition and reconstruction. The school board on Tuesday approved documents that would allow for early site work to begin on the high school site. This would include underground utility work and setting up the “slab” for the footprint of the new high school, Thiel said. Contractors are in the process of removing asbestos from the East building on the site, so that can be demolished later this year.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.