Progress toward establishing a permanent home for Eastern Mennonite School’s elementary program reached a critical milestone on February 7. That’s when the City of Harrisonburg granted a long-awaited building permit for renovations to a building that EMS purchased from MennoMedia in 2016.
“It’s not unusual for the permitting process to take some time,” said Mike Stoltzfus, the school’s director of business affairs. “We are thrilled to have the city’s go-ahead for the renovation project. We can now move at full speed in preparing the building for EMS’s youngest students.”
That’s not to say the project has been on hold as the school waited for the permit. Stoltzfus has been working with architect Charles Hendricks of the Gaines Group and general contractor Harman Construction on demolition and structural issues over the past few months. Contractors have reinforced the foundation and basement walls, waterproofed the exterior of the building, prepared footers for interior support columns, and completed demo of interior stairwells. With the building permit in hand, it is time to begin classroom renovations, improve the exterior, and add offices and a welcoming entrance on the building’s west side.
Fundraising has also continued at full pace. To date, and thanks to generous gifts and pledges totaling $445,000 since the beginning of the school year, EMS is within $155,000 of the $3.2 million “move-in goal” and well on our way to the overall project goal of $4.5 million.
As Paul Leaman, head of school explains, immediately upon reaching the move-in goal, the development team will turn its sights toward raising funds for the rest of the work. This includes a bridge that will connect the renovated elementary building with the middle and high school building, and a “gathering space” addition on the elementary building. The space will be a multi-purpose setting for the important daily interactions among multi-grade levels as they prepare and share food, learn and and play together.
“Our vision for this active campus is big,” says Paul Leaman, head of school. “We are a learning community that interacts across levels, prioritizes daily time outside, and envisions an increasingly diverse student body.”