For Centennial grads, change of venue in '14

CHAMPAIGN — It's almost a year away, but Centennial High School already has a plan for next year's graduation ceremony.

Traditionally, the Champaign high school hosts its ceremony at the State Farm Center — you probably still think of it as the Assembly Hall — on the same night that Central High School has its ceremony at the University of Illinois' Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

However, the State Farm Center will be under construction next year, which means Centennial will try out Krannert as a graduation venue.

The bulk of the State Farm Center's renovations are expected to begin next March, with the center expected to be complete by November 2016.

The building has traditionally housed both Centennial and Urbana high schools' graduation ceremonies.

The change also means Centennial and Central will have their ceremonies on different nights.

Next year, Central's graduation is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 27, and Centennial's is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 28.

Urbana is also looking for another place to host its ceremony, and interim Principal Joe Wiemelt said that will be decided in July.

Centennial Principal Greg Johnson said the biggest change will be a limit on the number of guests who can attend to support each graduate. Centennial has never had a limit in the past, because the State Farm Center is so large.

"We're going to be limited," Johnson said. "There's really no way around it."

Johnson said he plans to use Central High School's expertise in hosting the graduation ceremony at Krannert to ensure things go smoothly.

He said he plans to keep families informed about the changes, starting with a letter that will go out to parents in July, as well as in the packet all graduates get closer to the ceremony.

The school will determine how many tickets each student will receive for family members and guests later next school year, when graduation numbers become more finalized.

Johnson said he has already heard some questions about the changes, and will continue to educate students and families.

"I anticipate people being reasonable," he said. "It's a big change for us."

Johnson said the school has been told that it won't be able to access the State Farm Center for two years because of the renovation, but so far, the school district has just scheduled its 2014 ceremony for Krannert.

"Next year, we will be at Krannert, and we'll go from there," Johnson said.

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