Saratoga County

O’Rourke School in Burnt Hills celebrates 50th anniversary

The year before a junior high school was built in Burnt Hills, parents were pulling out their hair.

The year before a junior high school was built in Burnt Hills, parents were pulling out their hair.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School was so crowded that students went to school in shifts in 1959 and 1960 — junior high in the morning and senior high in the afternoon, said Ballston historian Rick Reynolds.

“In reading articles about that period of time, the kids didn’t mind it a great deal, but the parents went crazy,” Reynolds said. Those with children in more than one level had a tough time with the varied schedules.

All around the Capital Region at that time, school populations rose along with suburban growth. Locally, General Electric’s success boosted numbers in Glenville and Ballston communities within the school district.

So in 1961, the district opened Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Junior High School for grades 7 through 9 on Lake Hill Road west of Route 50. It opened Feb. 27.

The past and present school community will celebrate the middle school’s 50th anniversary on Tuesday with an event at the school and other activities during school this week.

Students held a T-shirt contest, and the winning design will be featured at the event. Science teacher Karen Krushelnytsky assembled slide shows with local, national and international events from the last 50 years.

About 60 former staffers plan to attend Tuesday’s festivities, Reynolds said, including retired Superintendent Richard O’Rourke, now 82.

Officials named the middle school for O’Rourke in 1994, the year he retired after 25 years as superintendent.

“I certainly was honored, and they were satisfied with my service,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke came to Burnt Hills after moving up the ranks at the only other school district where he worked — Detroit city schools. He was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Detroit.

When he got the job, he, wife Barbara and their three children moved east to a place where they knew no one.

“My family and I had vacationed through this area the summer before and liked the area,” he recalled. His children graduated from Burnt Hills and have since moved away.

Now O’Rourke serves on the board of trustees for the Charlton School for Girls, is active in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Rotary and is on the board of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Education Foundation.

Reynolds, the town historian, is also a retired social studies teacher from the middle school.

His daughter, Lindsay Armbruster, now teaches there and is co-chairwoman of the anniversary event with Nancy Pearse, O’Rourke assistant principal.

Armbruster went to school at O’Rourke, graduated from the high school in 2000 and returned to the middle school later as a health teacher.

“I’ve worked in many different schools, and there’s just something about the people here,” she said. “I love coming to work every day. I think there’s so many people that share that same feeling.”

Many of the teachers stay a long time.

“We don’t have much turnover, because people are happy here,” Armbruster said. “There’s just something about this place that sucks people in.”

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