1970: Vollmer Becomes R-H’s Last New School

  • Projections are useful - and even necessary - but they aren’t always accurate.

    By 1968, more than 9,000 students attended the Rush-Henrietta Central School District. The best estimate available predicted that the district would have more than 12,000 students within three years. Two decades after centralization, our schools remained incredibly short on space.

    In February 1968, community members learned more about the need for a new school on the west side of the district. A 900-student elementary school was proposed to be built on property adjacent to Burger Junior High School. Voters approved the $1.95 million construction project the following month.

    On April 12, 1970, Rush-Henrietta dedicated its Mary K. Vollmer Elementary School. “Mary K. Vollmer was a very special teacher,” the event program said. “In tribute to her many years of devoted service to children and the teaching profession, we now proudly dedicate this new school in the Rush-Henrietta district.”
    John Dreher, longtime custodian at Roth Junior High School, lived in Vollmer’s neighborhood when he was growing up near the Brighton-Henrietta border. “We used to go to her house for trick-or-treat,” he recalls. “She lived in a beautiful house and she would be there waiting at the door. She was quite the lady.”

    While Vollmer Elementary was being touted as Rush-Henrietta’s newest school, no one could foresee that it also would be its last. The growing community was bustling with non-stop growth and it did not appear that a slowdown was in store. “Henrietta’s population is growing so fast, and the percentage of school-aged children is so great…” Superintendent Dr. John W. Parker told the Democrat and Chronicle in 1968. “As it is now, we’re building a school a year, and it looks as though the pace is going to continue.”

    That’s not what happened, though. Student enrollment peaked within a few years and district leaders soon found themselves in the unexpected position of considering which buildings to shutter. In fact, Vollmer Elementary School stayed open for less than a decade, closing in 1978.

    Eventually, the district found other important uses for the building. For many years, it was home to the Vollmer Learning Center - forerunner of Webster Learning Center - as well as the popular Rush-Henrietta Family Center and numerous district departments. In 2017, after a districtwide reconfiguration, the building became Vollmer Elementary School once again and now serves 700 students in grades 4-6.

    More than 50 years later, Mary K. Vollmer’s legacy as a caring, devoted teacher lives on at 150 Telephone Road.

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