1950s: Building a New School Each Year

  • Families were flocking to Henrietta, in part to enroll their children in the Rush-Henrietta Central School District. The district had 1,800 students in 1956, but enrollment was projected to surpass 3,000 by 1960. The population increased so much, and so fast, that the district was forced to build a second school in 1955. Incredibly, Gillette Elementary was full the first day it opened.

    By that time, district leaders had already made the case for needing a third school. On March 15, 1956, voters were asked to approve the acquisition of 15 acres of land on East Henrietta Road in Rush. The proposal to purchase George Kuhl’s property was approved 382 to 17.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, the district presented new plans at a breathtaking pace. It is hard to fathom the speed at which the district scouted land, sought and received voter approval, designed new schools, and had them constructed. The time and effort spent by district officials and community members during these early years remains mind-bogglingly impressive.

    Having received permission to buy the land on East Henrietta Road, Rush-Henrietta began planning for the construction of a 22-room school designed for 600 students. The proposal to build the $1.1 million school was put up for voter approval April 24, 1957, just a month after the land vote. When residents went to the polls to approve the creation of the new building, they did so with the knowledge that a fourth new school would be needed the following year.

    The new school in Rush was named for Monica B. Leary. Born in Seneca Falls, N.Y., February 11, 1883, she graduated from St. Mary’s Nursing School in 1909. Three years later, she married Dr. James Leary. She succeeded her husband as a school board member in Rush, serving to better local education in the 1930s and 1940s before the district was centralized.

    Considered by many to be one of Rush’s most respected citizens, Monica Leary died in 1953 but her legacy lives on today at Leary Elementary School.

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