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School Construction Report: New International Prep Academy nears finish line; how 24 districts spent state grants | News

This story appeared in ‘Meeting Minutes & More,’ a weekly, six-page special section in the print editions of Friday’s News-Gazette.

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As classes began Thursday for kids in Champaign’s two balanced-calendar schools (Barkstall and Kenwood elementaries), work continued on the two big-budget buildings that are in the final period of construction ($102.7 million Central High and $24.33 million International Prep Academy).

They’re the last two projects remaining on the six-school, two-fields referendum taxpayers gave their blessing to 2,082 days ago — Central being the priciest and IPA, originally budgeted for a $6 million renovation/expansion, being the project that’s grown the most in scope since Election Day 2016.


ABOVE: Construction continues on driveways and parking lots Wednesday at the new International Prep Academy behind the old building on Kirby Avenue in Champaign. INSET: The back of the new building, as seen from Lakeside Drive. BELOW: Windows on the front of the new building cause unique reflections. A gallery is available at

The all-new facility, being built behind the existing school on West Kirby Avenue, will house K-5 students. Plans are for the existing building to phase in 6-8 students one grade at a time on a trial basis, with the possibility of IPA eventually becoming the district’s first K-8 school.

Students arrive for the 2022-23 school year on Aug. 18. Between now and then, district Chief Communications Officer Stacy Moore said Thursday, work will happen both inside (systems testing, training, furniture move-in, low-voltage connections, installation of late-arriving materials) and outside (playground installation, removal of excess soils, concrete pours for drives, curbs and sidewalks and likely lastly, landscaping — when the weather cools down).


The front of the new building as work continues on the new International Prep Academy behind the old building on Kirby in Champaign on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Elsewhere across the area, construction crews are spending sultry July days working on projects big and small, many of them aided by state-issued maintenance grants of $50,000 (for most districts, less for a few). We asked officials in districts awarded grants what they’re putting the funding toward.

ARCOLA: The grant will help cover the costs of two projects — the repainting of the high school gym and renovation of an elementary bathroom, Superintendent Tom Mulligan says.

BEMENT: “We are in the process of reviewing possible uses for the grant money,” says Mary Vogt, who’s just three weeks into her tenure as superintendent.

BLUE RIDGE: The $50,000 will go toward the upgrading of the aging HVAC controls at the high school, a project that began with the same grant two years ago, Superintendent Hillary Stanifer says.

FAT HILL: The district of 447 received $30,000, earmarked for tuck pointing work on the 1929 portion of the high school, Superintendent Brett Robinson says.

CHAMPAGNE: Unit 4 allocated the funds for roof replacements at Central High, for areas untouched by the 2016 referendum, Moore says.

CISSNA PARK: The money helped push along a window replacement project at the junior high and lower elementary school, Superintendent Dan Hylbert says.


School construction is the focus of this week’s Meetings Minutes & More special section, a new Friday feature in The News-Gazette.

CLINTON: The youngest students are the beneficiaries — $50,000 didn’t cover the entire cost of the new playground at pre-K-1 Lincoln Elementary, “but it definitely helped,” Assistant Superintendent Drew Goebel says.

GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY: The grant will cover one-fortieth of the cost of a $2 million roof replacement project at the high school and elementary school, Superintendent Jeremy Darnell says.

HERITAGE: Two just-finished paving projects got a boost — bus circles and bus lanes at both the K-8 school in Homer and the high school in Broadlands. The total bill for the work added up to $415,000, which was funded by the state, a $25,000 TIF district grant from Homer and 1 percent sales tax revenue from Champaign County, Superintendent Tom Davis says.

IROQUOIS WEST: The district is using every penny to offset the cost of locker room repairs, Superintendent Angelo Lekkas says.

LeROY: A grant of $28,500 went toward replacing the roof on the high school gym, Superintendent Gary Tipsord says.

MILFORD: The funds will be stashed away for a project that’s still in the design phase — making the restroom in the district office compliant with standards set in the Americans with Disabilities Act — according to Superintendent Michele Lindenmeyer.

MONTICELLO: The grant helped pay for replacing a portion of the roof of the 1921 building at the high school, Superintendent Adam Clapp says.

OAKWOOD: A grade school cafeteria and small gym that’s showing its age (66) is undergoing a remodel, Superintendent Larry Maynard says.

PAXTON-BUCKLEY-LODA: The Ford County district received a grant just shy of the max ($47,627.50), spent on repairing A/C unit valves and hoses and replacing old insulation on HVAC piping at the the junior high, Superintendent Cliff McClure says.

RANTOUL CITY SCHOOLS: The funds will be used to offset the costs of ongoing classroom door replacements district-wide, Superintendent Scott Woods says.

ST. JOSEPH GRADE SCHOOL: The grant went toward new side walls and the resealing and striping of the middle school parking lot, Superintendent Todd Pence says.

ST. JOSEPH-OGDEN: The funding helped pay for a new roof on the east side of the high school, Superintendent Brian Brooks says.

MMM: Shiloh parking lot

Work continues on the new back parking lot at Shiloh.

SHILOH: The back parking lot has new asphalt and lines, thanks to an assist from the state, Superintendent Bill Myers says.

THOMASBORO: New HVAC controls for the grade school were purchased with the grant, Superintendent Bonnie McArthur says.

TUSCOLA: The money was used to update electrical panels at the middle school and high school, Superintendent Gary Alexander says.

UNIT: The entire grant went toward replacing the fire alarm system at the high school. “It was outdated and needed to be brought up to code,” Superintendent Andy Larson says.

URBAN: A separate grant covered phase one of much-needed roof repairs at Urbana Middle School; this one is helping finish the job, Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum says.

MMM: Vermilion Association for Special Education

The Vermilion Association for Special Education is putting its grant toward much-needed parking-lot improvements.

VERMILION ASSOCIATION FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION: A parking lot improvement project should be completed by month’s end, Director Kristin Dunker says.


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