Until this fall, Rye High school students would be surprised when working in one of the old science labs. If the experiment called for water, the student would turn on one faucet at the lab table, only to have the water spurt out of the other faucet. While that may well have been good for a laugh the first time, it wasn’t conducive to hands on science. Given that some of the old science labs dated back to the original 1930s building, it was clearly time to update our facilities.
I want to take this moment as we approach Thanksgiving to thank the Rye community for its willingness to invest in education. I am so grateful that Rye High School students now conduct hands-on science experiments in the 12 new science labs with modern amenities, which facilitate learning in the new wing of the high school. Teachers and students have been working in the new labs since the beginning of the school year. The work outside the addition has progressed to the point where, we can now celebrate with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Please join us on Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. as we welcome the community to come and tour the building, see the 12 new chemistry, biology, physics, engineering and earth science labs, prep rooms, four restrooms and 300 lockers, all of which help to accommodate the 1,022 students in the high school today. As a vivid illustration of the growth in student enrollment in the district, in 2006 to 2007, my first year on the Board of Education, there were 751 students in the high school. That’s a remarkable 36 percent increase in the nine years I have served on the board.
There is so much for all of us to celebrate as we move to completion on this tremendous undertaking. The addition was delivered to the community on time with students learning in the science labs in the beginning of the school year and the project is under budget. Former science labs in the main building have been converted to regular classrooms and in doing so we have gained four classrooms and maximized every foot of precious classroom space for learning. Remembering how nervous our community was taking this big step, it is a pleasure to see it all come to fruition: to hear a science teacher talk about the much larger array of experiments now possible; to learn that the students love the science addition so much they congregate in the bright new space; and to have residents and neighbors stop me on Purchase Street to say how beautiful the building looks and how it fits in with the original architecture of the high school.
Of course there are still challenges ahead.
How will we as a community ensure academic excellence in the face of budgetary constraints such as a tax cap without an exemption for our soaring increase in enrollment, more and more unfunded mandates imposed by the state on local school districts and on us as taxpayers and a New York state pension system with mandated contributions from school districts which increase at a greater rate than the allowable tax revenue increases permitted under the tax cap? These are some of the challenges ahead and we, as a community, will face them together as successfully, I hope, as we have with the science addition.
Now, with functional and up-to-date labs, the only surprises the students encounter come at the conclusion of well designed experiments conceived of, and supervised by, the talented science teachers of the Rye City School District.
Looking forward to seeing you on Dec. 6.