From the Historian: East Rochester school history, 1897-2020

Jim Burlingame

In my previous article, I dove into the history of the Little Brown Jug rivalry between East Rochester and Fairport on the football field. This week, I would like to give you a little background on our schools (the property they are located on both then and now).

East Rochester was founded as Despatch in 1897. It was renamed East Rochester in 1906. The village grew so fast that soon a school was needed to replace the little one-room building on North Washington Street (across from Despatch Drive) that was outgrown. The Vanderbilt Improvement Co. (formed to manage the sale of lots in the new village by founder Walter Parce) agreed to donate all the land on the south side of the 100 block of East Avenue to the school district. The $8,000 project was completed in record time and the new brick schoolhouse opened for business in the fall of 1899 with four classrooms on the first floor and the same number on the second, holding 120 students.

All went well for a few years before the school population again exceeded the capacity of the building and an annex was added on the south side. In 1911, a high school was constructed to the west of the existing building. In 1924, another building was built to the east of the original building to house the elementary grades 1-6.

All went well until, again, the expanding village needed more school space. The major project started in 1936 with the shifting of classes to many locations in the village. This allowed the original schoolhouse, built in 1898 and the high school building from 1911 to be torn down.

The new high school building was completed in time for the start of the school year in September 1937. That building and the one next to it built in 1924 served the district well until the late 1950s, when again the enrollment was getting close to a point where more space would be needed. In 1952, the school board voted to purchase a large portion of land belonging to the Harris family on Fairport Road for future expansion.

Before any construction could be started the athletic programs (baseball, football and track), which were being played in Eyer Park, had to be moved to the new location on Woodbine Avenue. This was completed and a new building was ready for the first classes in 1959 when 600 students in grades 9-12 moved from the East Avenue location.

Enrollment continued to rise and in 1962 a new academic wing and swimming pool were added to the high school. In 1993, a major expansion of the Woodbine Avenue campus lasting two years was started. This enabled all of the district students, pre-K-12, to be in one building. An arrangement between East Rochester and BOCES allowed for BOCES to lease the two East Avenue schools; this would help offset the cost of the construction of the Woodbine Avenue campus. At the time of this article, the district enrollment is approximately 1,000 students.

Jim Burlingame is historian for the town/village of East Rochester.

A recent aerial view of the East Rochester School campus.