Nearly 400 bricks have been purchased to raise over $50,000 for a bridge connecting the two buildings on Eastern Mennonite School campus. The bridge is needed between the newly renovated elementary building and existing middle and high school, or “upper” building, at 801 Parkwood Drive, Harrisonburg.
Parents of elementary students helped to launch the effort to fund the bridge in early spring 2019 as renovation of classrooms and addition of offices on the elementary building progressed. They invited families to purchase a paver engraved with student names with proceeds going to fund the bridge. The engraved pavers will honor EMS students, alumni, teachers and administrators past and present, as well as supporting businesses and friends.
The covered bridge will provide a safe drop off and pick up spot, explains Maria Archer, K-8 principal. Perhaps more importantly, she notes, “it will be a community space where we play, do outdoor learning activities, greet one another as we come and go, and keep us safe and dry.”
The class of 2019 made the bricks their senior class gift with each graduate receiving an engraved brick with their name and grad year. The engraved pavers will be used in a walkway to the bridge; the bridge will be usable and the renovated building completed this fall. Earlier, the elementary community contributed $5,000 to the project through monies raised by the parent-teacher fellowship.
As interest in the engraved bricks grew this past spring, participation expanded from student families to alumni, former employees and beyond. “People saw how special it would be to come back and find their name in the walkway,” says Paul Leaman, head of school. “The bridge and walkway seem to be taking on a life of their own as an outdoor gathering and community space where people can celebrate their piece of history with the school.”
The bridge is designed by Gaines Group Architects, who will also design the walkway and other hardscaping. The bridge itself will include wood planks from a generous supporter.
The school is planning a K-12 “Making History Day” on November 15 when students will join across grades to move items from the upper building — which housed the K-5 program this past school year — to their new home. A celebration of the bridge will take place after the elementary Christmas program, Dec. 2. A ribbon cutting and public celebration of the renovated elementary building is planned for early in 2020.
Can I still participate?
It’s not too late to purchase an engraved brick for the walkway between the bridge and the lower building. While the $50,000 goal has been met, new bricks can be incorporated into the walkway until August 31. Click here to purchase a brick, which will be engraved by Jessica Peachey with Blue Ridge Engraving.
Renovation of the elementary classrooms and new office space, along with the bridge, are significant milestones for the school, thanks to generous donors. A community gathering space is planned for the next phase of the elementary building.