Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
featured top story

FIRST LOOK: Renovated Champaign Central High School

FIRST  LOOK: Renovated Champaign Central High School
central tour

Central’s new Decker Theatre seats 750 in its maroon, retractable chairs. Now the prime location for school plays, musical performances and perhaps staff meetings, Decker features an expanded backstage area, a recessed, drop-down screen, acoustic paneling and an ;impressive, significantly upgraded' audiovisual system, Stegmaier said.

Only five days — four, for incoming freshmen — until the 2022-23 school year kicks off at Champaign Central High.

After almost five years of continuous construction, Central’s $104.5 million expansion and renovation is nearly complete. New facilities like the 750-seat Decker Theatre are ready.

“This summer, we finally removed all the temporary partitions separating old, new and temporary spaces,” said Elizabeth Stegmaier, the school district’s director of capital projects. “It is gratifying to see how the existing building meshes with the new.”

Last week, The News-Gazette’s Robin Scholz and Ethan Simmons got a guided tour of the building courtesy of Stegmaier, Chief Communications Officer Stacey Moore and new Communications Director Garret Hill.

From 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Central families can visit for a free-roaming open house of the upgraded facility.

“Many teachers and students have been in temporary spaces on site, off site and in portables for years. Some staff moved multiple times throughout the project,” Stegmaier said. “They are now finally moving into their permanent homes, and for those teachers who were part of the planning and design phases, they see their spaces in their final form as they were conceived on drawings many years ago.”

A tour in pictures:

central tour

Looking out from the stage in the new Decker Theatre during a tour of the new edition at Central High School in Champaign on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.

central tour teacher study

One of Central High School’s spacious faculty planning spaces. Several are spread throughout the building; the desks and storage cabinets are separated by department. Each space contains a kitchenette. 

central tour hallways

Elizabeth Stegmaier, director of capital projects for the Champaign school district, walks through the hallway next to Central High School’s new Combes Gymnasium in a tour of the updated facility. The old and new blend together after Central’s $104.5 million in additions and renovations.

central tour music storage

Unit 4 Director of Capital Projects Elizabeth Stegmaier opens up one of the cabinets in Central High School’s high-density music storage area. It was just built this summer, but a few cabinets are already filled to the brim with alphabetized boxes of sheet music for Central’s music groups.

central tour woodworking

Tubes that are part of a dust-extraction system hang overhead in the woodworking classroom, which is close to the new Decker Theatre, so students can build set pieces and deliver them with a quick walk backstage.

central tour art classroom

Central art teacher Enrika Stulpinaite Maldonado organizes supplies in one of the building’s three art classrooms, a week before classes begin. Art class has been on the move during the rebuild; for the last two years, art found a temporary home in what will eventually be Central’s dance room.

central tour

Elizabeth Stegmaier, left, turns on the lights as she leads Stacey Hill, Chief Communications Officer, Unit 4, and Garret Hill, Communications Director, through the new drama room during a tour of the new edition at Central High School in Champaign on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.

central tour wooden logo

A new, wooden Central High School logo sits in the hallway between the old building and new gymnasium area.

central tour

A new entry to the building on the northwest side of the addition during a tour of the new edition at Central High School in Champaign on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.

central tour band room

Central’s revamped band room is in the same spot on the northwest corner of the school but has been expanded and outfitted with new acoustic panels.

central tour

A second-floor hallway in the old building on the right meets a hallway in the new edition on Aug. 11 during a tour of the new edition at Central High School in Champaign.

Ethan Simmons is a reporter at The News-Gazette covering the University of Illinois. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@ethancsimmons).