Late 1940s: The Beginning of a Population Explosion
“If the old woman who accommodated all the children in her shoe has any extra footgear, overcrowded schools of Rochester’s suburban area would be quick to buy them.” That’s how Rochester Times-Union reporter Andrew Wolfe described challenges facing the newly formed Rush-Henrietta Central School District in 1949. The newspaper account was titled, “Suburban Schools, Swamped by Growing Flood of Students, Face Need for New Building Construction.”
It was an amazing turn of events. Only three years before, local residents voted to centralize school operations. The Rush-Henrietta Central School District opened July 1, 1947; George Yackel, former principal in Rush, was named its principal.
By 1948, at least 600 students attended our schools. District leaders realized that a new, large building that would be home to all of them was a wise idea. What they didn’t see - what no one could see - was that the school district and community soon would become a powerful magnet for families interested in moving from the city. During the next two decades, Rush-Henrietta’s student population would grow from a manageable 600 students to an incredible 11,000.
This unexpected influx of students resulted in added pressure to plan even more carefully. After residents approved the creation of the district, Rush and Henrietta students remained scattered about the two towns. Makeshift classrooms were found in an assortment of places, including the Rush Methodist Church, Rush Town Hall, East Henrietta’s Union Congregational Church, and what was described by the Democrat and Chronicle as a “cinder block garage near the East Henrietta High School.”
Newspaper accounts from the time explained the unforeseen challenges that would test district leaders and community residents. Once the new district was formed, people began moving to the suburbs at an unprecedented rate, and Rush-Henrietta was no exception. Our community was viewed as an appealing place to live, and the new school district played no small role in shaping this public perception.
Dr. John Parker, longtime teacher and district administrator for whom Rush-Henrietta’s Parker Administration Building is named, likened the population explosion to a brush fire. "We had no way of knowing how much more school facilities we needed when we centralized in the late forties," he once said.
The next step for the fledgling district was to build the new school. Our next post will focus on that important milestone.
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