In 1855, an Illinois bill which our present statewide system of free schools is based, was passed and signed into law by Governor Joel A. Matteson. At that time, Champaign was divided into two school districts. In 1890, the two districts were consolidated under a bill to encourage the reorganization of individual school districts into unit districts. Champaign District 71 and twelve former rural districts in the surrounding area were consolidated into today's Champaign Community Unit District #4 in 1948.
Unit 4 is composed of the City of Champaign and about 83 miles of rural territory. The school system is organized into eleven elementary schools, three middle schools, an alternative high school and two senior high schools. The assessed valuation of the school district is over $217,000,000.00.
The history of Champaign High School began in 1870 with the erection of West Side High School on the ground on which the present high school stands. The site was donated to the public schools of Champaign in 1868 by J.P. White. West Side High School was a three story brick building surrounded by maple trees and was used for both elementary and high school until it was destroyed by fire in 1883. The next building on this site, Avenue Grade School, was constructed immediately following the fire and was used until 1934 when it was razed to permit the construction of a new Junior High School. Champaign High School acquired its own building and moved to a building at Randolph and Hill Streets. In 1914, Champaign High School opened in a new building, now Edison Middle School, and remained at that site until 1956. In 1954, the Junior High School building was remodeled and the high school moved into it, our current location, in 1956.
During the 1963-64 school year, due to overcrowding, approximately 300 students were assigned on a half-day basis to Jefferson Middle School. These students attended academic classes at Jefferson on a three (55 minutes) five day per week class schedule, plus three classes at the senior high including physical education. The district responded to the overcrowding by building a new structure near Jefferson, the high school annex which later became Champaign Centennial High School. During the 1965-66 school year, approximately 550 sophomores attended classes in the first phase of the Senior High School Annex. They attended classes on the same schedule as those at Champaign High School. In 1964, the Annex opened with an enrollment of 526 sophomores. The school year 1966-67 found an equal distribution of sophomore and junior students at Champaign High School and the Annex. Finally, in 1968-69, the district created two high schools, Central and Centennial.
On April 1, 1997, the taxpayers of Champaign approved a $21,000,000.00 bond issue to build two new elementary schools and put a $3,000,000.00 addition onto Central High School. This addition, along with extensive remodeling to the 1936 addition, was opened in the fall of 1998. An open house and dedication of the "Seely Johnston Hall of Honors" was held on September 13, 1998. The main features of the new addition were a large modern media center, a child development/day care center, foods laboratory, and an expanded student services area. The multi-use Seely Hall also became the main entrance to Central.
In Seely Hall, you can see "Max Maroon", our school's mascot. Born during the 1952-53 basketball season, he is the fictional creation of Susan Black Drummond and her 1957 classmates.