I was in 5th grade in 1971 when the old Chester High School shrunk from a whole city block to a half block thanks to a fire that consumed the half that faced 9th Street. I remember riding by and looking at the remains having no concept of how it disrupted classroom instruction for high school students for the next three years. 

Today, the local paper graced its front page with a reminder of the 50-year-old fire accompanied by quotes from several students from the CHS class of 1971 sharing their experience back in 1971 as they prepare for their 50-year class reunion. It’s an article worth seeking out and reading. 

As the Delaware County Historical Society prepares to present a program on Tuesday, February 23 from 6-8pm called ‘Civil Rights & School Segregation – 1960s,’ today’s article shares a few gems which are little known about Chester schools that the Historical Society’s program will highlight, namely, Chester schools did a great job of educating students in the 60s and 70s. As one student from c/o 71 says, 

…their class had a 95% graduation rate and 75% of the graduates went on to higher education…Today, many from our class have their own businesses, returned to the school district as educators, gave back to their community, and are now working with Chester Youth

In Chester, school segregation in the 60s had less to do with equal education than it did about equal access to quality education facilities, resources, books and equipment. Compare that to today where I saw a stat that there’s a greater than a 50% dropout rate in Chester schools and the Chester Upland School District is consistently ranked among the 6 worst in the state. What happened in the last 50-years that contributes to the steady decline in school achievement?

Let’s not forget that the ‘new’ Chester High School was built in 1974. That’s the last new public school built in Chester. Do we have to have another fire to get another new school?

Education in Chester is a hot topic right now with the school district in receivership and up for sale. Wouldn’t it be nice if the new group coming in to run the schools could guarantee a graduation rate of 95% with 75% of them going on to higher education. 

The only way that will happen is to find a WayBack machine and go back in time. We’re going in the wrong direction, people. How long will we put up with this?

Enjoy your class reunion and party like it’s 1971. 

The old Chester High School. Image stolen from OldChesterPa.com