Central 301 asks voters for $195 million for new high school

Voters will decide Tuesday whether Central Unit District 301 should have a new, larger high school.

The Burlington-based district is asking permission to borrow $195 million to build it south and east of the current high school site.

Doing so would enable the district to turn the current Central High School building into a middle school with the addition of 20 classrooms, the district says.

The current Central Middle School could then be used as an early-learning center, the district says.

However, a group opposed to the request says that the district could make room for more students in the current high school by adding a third floor. Andy Dogan, co-leader of Building a Better District, says that the structural plans for the current high school, which opened in 1991, show that it was built in a way to accommodate a third floor.

The group also criticized the district’s decision not to build the new high school on 135 acres it owned on Rohrsen Road.

The district said it received feedback from residents after voters rejected the request in March 2023. According to the district, some residents didn’t like the location, including having concerns about building in a floodplain on it.

In February, the district closed on the purchase of a 307-acre site on Route 47 for $5.12 million.

It is selling the Rohrsen site for $2.36 million.

The district is already enlarging the current high school. But said doing so “does not provide a solution to challenges” in the school’s cafeteria/commons area, vocational education program, auditorium space and student parking.

If the voters approve the new high school, the district intends to convert the existing high school into a middle school. Prairie Knolls Middle School would become an elementary school, and Central Middle School could become an early learning center, according to the district.

The district says a new high school would accommodate at least 2,400 students. This fall, 1,441 students were enrolled, according to an October report to the school board. The district contends the school has a capacity of 1,400 students and that overall, its schools are at 90% capacity. The district believes enrollment will increase as municipalities, especially Elgin, approve new housing subdivisions in the district.

District officials say the owner of a $400,000 home would pay $170 more a year in property taxes starting in 2027 because they would not borrow the money until the district finishes paying off the bonds it sold to build Prairie Knolls Middle and Country Knolls Elementary schools in 2006.

There is nothing in the referendum proposal, however, that prohibits the district from borrowing the money immediately.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.