1871 Is No Longer Modern

At the start of first grade, mom bought me a super cool light blue Inspector Gadget lunch box. This started an elementary school tradition that helped me get excited for the start of the school year.


My daughters are students in the Allentown School District. Dropping them off on their first day of school was so fun as all the kids sported their new uniforms and their biggest smiles. My kids had their new backpacks on (sadly neither selected an Inspector Gadget one, but they still looked awesome).


A few weeks before the first students arrived, I joined Gov. Tom Wolf at Harrison Morton Middle School where we discussed reforms to the state’s charter school law. I have thoughts about that topic, but that’s for another day.


Instead, I’d like to discuss Harrison Morton Middle School. Located on 2nd Street, this school is home to about 900 students from Center City and the East Side of Allentown. It is not a large building and features no athletic fields or outdoor basketball hoops. There is virtually no parking and you will never find a “luxury” like air conditioning.


Surprising as it may be, this was a very modern building the year it was completed: 1871. Yes, the first phase of this building was constructed when Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States. (The second phase was competed in 1891 when Benjamin Harrison was our commander in chief.)


This is no way to educate 900 students. And Harrison Morton is not an outlier in the Allentown School District as 20% of its buildings are 100-plus years old. (Note: ASD is building a new elementary school that will replace two older buildings: Cleveland and McKinley Elementary Schools.)


In years past, state government would allocate a hefty amount of money for new schools. Regrettably, this has gone away as we look for new ways to reduce spending.

Our state Constitution requires that “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” Harrison Morton Middle School is proof that we are not living up to our end of the bargain.