Bridge Footers Usher in New Era; Students Get First Look

November 19, 2019 / Andrea Wenger

Workers poured footers last week to begin building the bridge that will soon connect the original 1964 “upper” building at Eastern Mennonite School with the newly renovated “lower” building, at 801 Parkwood Drive in Harrisonburg. Meanwhile, eager elementary students got their first peek at their new classrooms.

The bridge base will be complete in time for the December 6 move of classroom furniture and supplies into the newly renovated building, which will provide a permanent home for the school’s elementary program.

The completed bridge will provide a safe drop off and pick up spot for elementary families, as well as a covered outdoor learning and play space.

“It’s exciting to see this rather simple — at least in comparison to the building renovation — bridge project begin,” says Michael Stoltzfus ‘94, director of business affairs. “After more than three years of developing a vision for the property, purchasing and renovating, this is a significant and symbolic step in bringing it all together into one K-12 campus.”

Students Visit Classrooms
With the last step of construction underway, students are able to visualize themselves being dropped off to walk into their new space. Teachers and classes have begun visiting the building for tours with Stoltzfus.

“This is so exciting!” quipped a second grader, while others squealed, high fived and jumped around the rooms. They noticed deep and large windows, closets and sinks in each room, the rooftop garden area and “learning portal” windows that show the inner workings of the building.

“Each building has a story,” explained Stoltzfus, noting that this building is more than 60 years old and originally was a place to sell appliances (first floor) and live (upper level apartments). “Look at the floor,” he encouraged, noting the polished cement that is imperfect, yet beautiful. “That tells the story of the many people who made this space a home in the past.”

How it Happened and What Comes Next
The bridge project was made possible by generous donors who purchased inscribed bricks, raising more than $54,000 in a little less than 90 days. The 402 engraved bricks, honoring students, alumni, family, teachers and area businesses, will eventually be incorporated into a pathway between the bridge and the elementary school.

Classes will start in the new space on December 10 for the 94 children of EMES. The permanent home comes after more than 11 academic years in two off-site locations and a year and half in the 6-12 building.

The public is invited to a Tuesday, January 28, 2020, ribbon cutting and celebration of the new building, beginning at 4 p.m. Tours will be available as well.

Prospective elementary parents are invited to an open house on the same day, January 28, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Prospective families, with children and siblings along, are also invited to an open house on February 4 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. with finger foods and child care provided.

Contact EMS Admissions with questions about the open house events, or 540-236-6021.

Looking into the future, the school will seek support from donors to build a gathering space addition to the renovated elementary building. The Gathering Space will be essential to the community learning that takes place at EMES, providing space for lunch and large group interaction. Until that is complete, K-5 students will make use of the Dining Hall and Commons at the upper building.

To learn more about supporting the addition of the gathering space, contact Paul Leaman, head of school, or 540-236-6012.

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