About Central High
Central traces its beginning to Omaha's first all-grades public school opened in 1859. The school district built a new high school building in 1871 where the territorial capital building once stood. This Omaha High School, destined to become known as Central High School, was a source of pride to Omahans. For example, on July 4, 1876, the school's tower gave Omaha its first demonstration of electric lights. And before the comfort of air conditioning, local residents were known to sleep on the Central lawn for relief from the heat on oppressive summer nights.
By 1897, overcrowding and inadequate ventilation led to the approval to build a new, larger building. The cornerstone for that building, the present-day Central High School, was laid on November 16, 1900. The builders began with the east side of the new school first, and from 1900-1912 the school grew, one side at a time, each section constructed around the original tower building. Finally, that tower building itself was demolished and removed before the fourth side (the north side) was added. The total cost of the new school was $750,000.
Central grounds received extensive revamping in 1920. Prompted by complaints from Omaha motorists about the steep incline of Dodge Street, city officials initiated plans to lower the grade of the busy street from twelve percent to seven percent. The work closed traffic for more than a year and left Central on a cliff with a twenty-foot drop. New terraces and flights of stairs provided the campus with its present look. The school board approved the addition of a gym (which is now the cafeteria) and auditorium wing to the north side of the building in 1925. Prior to that time, the basketball teams played their games in a gym on the 4th floor. In 1977, a full-sized gym was added to the building. Then, in 1981-82, students and teachers endured the dust and noise of an extensive renovation of the entire building. During this time, a helicopter was used to lower the supports for a translucent dome that would cover the courtyard. This innovative addition ended the need to close the busy hub of the school at the first sign of snow and allowed the space to be used year-round. Another renovation project began in 2001. Portable classrooms were installed on the practice field (which is now the Joslyn Art Museum parking lot) while a construction team installed air conditioning and the internet for all the classrooms. Also, the "old gym" was converted into a cafeteria while the "old cafeteria" on the 4th floor was changed to classrooms. The current gym was extended, including the addition of a lobby and concession stand, while also adding a new weight room and wrestling room. In 2005, Seeman Stadium was completed. With the building of the stadium and the gym updates, CHS athletes are now able to compete on campus for football, soccer, and basketball. In 2019, CHS completed a $19.3 million theater, arts and music wing. The entire project was paid for with private funds in a campaign directed by the Central High School Foundation. The Omaha Public Schools provided $5.5 million for the renovation work inside the existing building and to provide furniture and fixtures for the addition. Concerned that the addition would clash with the school's neoclassical style, designers used limestone on the outside walls. The Foundation purchased giant limestone slabs from Indiana so the new addition would match the century-old building. A new Central C is located on the floor of the new addition to compliment the original C in the main building.
When asked what our “specialty” or “theme” is we will tell you, without hesitation . . . “Academics”. We provide a quality education that includes:
- The Register, Central's student newspaper since 1886, was officially declared the oldest continuously published newspaper west of the Mississippi
- the second chapter of National Honor Society in 1921. Our principal created the idea of NDS, but was unable to attend the convention so we had to settle for the beta chapter
- the Student Council began in 1914
- ROTC was established in 1892-93 and is still going strong today
- an International Baccalaureate World School that offers over seventy IB, Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses
- a rigorous English curriculum with an emphasis in classic literature and writing (Stylebook) that prepares students for college and beyond
- a broad World Language department that includes Spanish, French, German, and Chinese
- an energetic Performing Arts department that continues to stand out on the local, state and national level including the Road Show, the school talent show since 1915
- a nationally recognized Marketing program
- a reputation of civic consciousness
- over 40 clubs and activities
- and, a history of building strong athletes