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Last day for 120-year-old Urbana ‘castle’, students move to $25M school

Students had their last day of classes Thursday in the historic Urbana High School, which served the community for about 120 years.

When students and staff return from spring break on Tuesday, April 10, they go to a $25 million new school. Between now and then, the district will move new desks, furniture and other items into the new school to get it ready for classes.

“The old building has served the district and the community for many, many years,” Urbana Superintendent Charles Theil said. “It came into service in 1898, burned down in 1930 and was rebuilt.”

READ: New $25M Urbana high school on track for opening after break

In 2014, Urbana voters approved a $31.3 million bond issue to build the new high school, as well as a new pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade building. The state is paying 61 percent of the $68 million total cost to build both schools.

While the old school is closing, the portion of it shaped like a castle will be saved, Theil said. The remainder of the building will be demolished to make way for more parking.

“It’s really a point of pride for our community,” Theil said. “There are many, many people in our community that love the castle and it’s very unique. There aren’t many high schools that look like a castle so it’s become ingrained into the community over the years.”

The district is still working on plans on how to use the castle, Theil said, but ideas are it could be used as an alumni center or community gathering place.

The new high school will offer technology, security and air conditioning that the old building couldn’t offer, Theil said.

Students are sentimental about leaving the old high school, they said, but look forward to moving to the new building.

MORE: Urbana ‘castle’ will stay standing after new high school opens

The new school is better designed for education in the 21st century, Urbana student Savanna Copeland said.

“It would be nice to have bigger hallways and bigger staircases so its easier to move throughout the school and that’s what we are going to get so it’s exciting,” she said.

Getting new technology and having things like a band room that is built for acoustics also will be nice, she said, as will new safety measures like classroom windows that open out to allow students to escape in an emergency.

The anticipation for the new buildings is high, senior Logan Rooney said.

“Everybody is really ready to get over there,” he said. “We have been talking about it for so long.”

Students on Thursday were allowed to go into the new school to get acquainted with it. Students got an idea where their lockers will be, classrooms and restrooms.

“It’s going to be a new experience for everyone,” Rooney said.

Having access for students with disabilities to all parts of the school is important to senior Bronwyn Walker.

READ: Urbana schools put finances online as its builds $65M new school

“One of the biggest things (in the old buildings) is there really is no way to get into the building, except for the auditorium, without going up or down some stairs,” Walker said.

Access will be a lot better in the building, Theil said.

Copeland compared the anticipation of the move like the day before Christmas.

“Everyone is excited,” she said. “It’s like if you have a giant family and everybody is getting ready. You know you are going to get something new and fun.”

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