The first building on the Centennial Campus was dedicated on February 7, 1958 as the South East Anoka County High School. The new school was organized with grades 7-10. Grades 11 and 12 were sent to White Bear or Marshall High School in Minneapolis. For the 1959-60 school year, 11th grade was held at Centennial. In 1960-61, when the second building was completed, it was designated the Senior High School with grades 10, 11 and 12. The first building then became the Junior High school.
There were 51 students in the first graduating class in June 1961. A newspaper article dated March 15, 1960 stated that the Centennial district had a junior high school that was completed in 1958, had a senior high partially done and plans to build an elementary school. Also from that article: students in the 11th grade attended classes in the junior high as well as the finished portion of the high school, seniors attended school in White Bear Lake or at Marshall High School.
The first, (undated) Chieftan, announced the new high school was to open, with the chemistry and biology classes moving in shortly after Christmas. The article calls this the first of a three phase plan for expansion. Another early Chieftan reports on the second phase of a three-part building program to begin in May of 1960. This second phase would be the construction of a gym and cafetorium for the high school. The September 28, 1961 Sentinel (district newsletter) sites the second phase including a vocal music room, a band room, and four biology classrooms. This publication also commented that a Centennial Elementary School would soon need to be built. At this time there were elementary classes being held in both high school buildings, as well as at the Centerville and Lovell Schools.
Centennial High School was designated a National School of Excellence on May 27, 1987. In the fall of 1997, with the opening of the new middle school, the high school took over the old junior high building and became a two building high school, consisting of grades 9-12.
The junior high building became the red building, and the original high school building took on the designation of white building. In the fall of 2012 the white building was renamed the East Building and the the red building was changed to the West Building.
Cougar replaces the Chief as Mascot
Like many high schools in the state and, indeed, across the nation, Centennial was among those who had an Indian mascot. The trend, out of respect for our Native American friends, was to stop using a symbol that they found offensive.
Students at the high school, led by the high school principal and the student council, solicited suggested mascot names from the student body and from the community. A variety of names were recommended and put on a ballot. The students at the high school voted to change the name to "Cougars." The Centennial School Board approved the new name, and a new tradition began in the fall of 1995.