1968: Rush-Henrietta Opens Its First High School
It is hard to imagine today, but in the mid-1960s much of the land both north and south of Lehigh Station Road consisted of open fields and empty space. In a school district growing by leaps and bounds, it appeared to be a terrific, centralized location to build a new high school.
To provide perspective on how fast the student population was increasing, consider two key numbers. In June 1967, Rush-Henrietta’s senior class had 325 students. In September, the district welcomed nearly 1,000 kindergartners.
In June 1965, voters approved the purchase of a 55-acre lot south of Lehigh Station Road between East Henrietta and Pinnacle roads. The following year, in March 1966, voters approved a $6.3 million proposal to build the district’s first high school. It opened in September 1968.
When the school was dedicated in January 1969, Miss Elizabeth Vail, great-granddaughter of James Sperry, traveled from Albany to celebrate the occasion. Also on hand was The Henrietta Post, which reported: “The former District Superintendent of Monroe County Schools, who had so much to do with the district’s improvement, Lester B. Foreman, attended the ceremonies with his wife. His eyes shown with delight.”
The new school was named for James Sperry, a local pioneer and land surveyor. Sperry was a strong advocate of education in Henrietta’s earliest days. He helped raise money to build Monroe Academy, a boarding and day school that opened in town in 1826. While many people are familiar with the school namesake, most do not know that Sperry also served for one year as Henrietta’s town supervisor in 1825.
The high school's opening was thrilling for our community! The excitement continued that fall. On October 14, 1968, a fire broke out in the building that caused classes to be canceled in the late morning. The fire was created by a short in a transformer.” According to a story the following day in the Democrat and Chronicle, “Teachers and administrators ran from room to room alerting students after the blaze knocked out the school’s electricity.” The school reopened the next day.
In modern society, people sometimes describe unexpected twists and turns by saying, “Never a dull moment.” As it turns out, that often was the case in the good old days, as well.
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