EMES Celebrates Building Renovation

From left to right, Mike Stoltzfus, director of business affairs; Wayne Witmer, Harman Construction; Jeff Shank, EMS board chair; Charles Hendricks, Gains Group Architects; Marlowe Nichols, class of '27; Maria Archer, k-8 principal; Teresa Anders, EMS board of trustees and chair of advancement committee; Frank Oncken, Chamber of Commerce; Paul Leaman, head of school
From left to right, Mike Stoltzfus, director of business affairs; Wayne Witmer, Harman Construction; Jeff Shank, EMS board chair; Charles Hendricks, Gains Group Architects; Marlowe Nichols, class of '27; Maria Archer, k-8 principal; Teresa Anders, EMS board of trustees and chair of advancement committee; Frank Oncken, Chamber of Commerce; Paul Leaman, head of school

Remembering, ribbon cutting, prayer and building tours marked the completion of a building renovation that gives Eastern Mennonite Elementary School a permanent home. The celebration came a little over 15 years after it first opened in the basement of Lindale Mennonite Church, in the fall of 2005.

More than 100 members of the EMES community, family, supporters and friends joined the January 28 event.

Especially poignant, were words by Marlowe Nichols, fifth grade student, who reflected on the past years of change, positives aspects of each of the school’s homes, and the special excitement of the new school. “The rooms are full of light,” she noted, as she thanked teachers and donors who have made it possible.

After 15 Years, Eastern Mennonite School’s Elementary Gets Own Space
DAILY NEWS_RECORD, Jan. 29, 2020
by Megan Williams

Eastern Mennonite School’s elementary program has been waiting 15 years for a space to call its own. And not just any space. Instead of a space to learn in, school officials who have been planning for this for years wanted to create a “learning space.”

On Tuesday, the new elementary school building, which has its own unique history, was dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by former students, teachers, principals, and current employees and families. About 75 people attended.

The new elementary building has a long history in the Park View community, having been an appliance store, apartment building, home to several restaurants and to MennoMedia for several decades. MennoMedia hosted the Mennonite Hour, an international program that was recorded in one of the best recording studios on this side of the country, said Paul Lehman, head of the school.“

A lot of transformative things occurred in this building,” Lehman said.

Sam Weaver was the school’s first principal, serving from 1969 to 1981. He was in attendance on Tuesday. He remembers dreaming of putting an elementary school along Mount Clinton Pike, but said he was excited to see the program become a reality in 2005, and for it to finally receive its own space.

The elementary program began in 2005 with just 24 students and was housed in Lindale Mennonite Church in Linville. After outgrowing that space, the school moved to a location on U.S. 11 and Cornerstone Lane, where Horizons Edge Sports Campus is now. Fourth- and fifth-grade classes moved to that location in 2009 and the rest of the school moved in 2010.

EMS purchased its current location in 2016. However, it needed a lot of work to become the space it is now, and for a school year the entire elementary program squeezed into the main building of the high school.

But finally, the elementary program moved into its new home at the beginning of January. The program has grown from 24 students to 94 over the past 15 years.

Elementary Principal Maria Archer has been with the school since the advent of the program 15 years ago and has watched it grow and change during that time.“

Most principals don’t get to spend much time in the classroom, but I do,” Archer said. “I get to interact with the students and collaborate with the teachers, and I get to know the parents as well.”

After three different locations, Archer said, it’s “hard to believe” they’ve arrived at this point. Sometimes she thinks back on those early years when they had a third of the student population they have now.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” she said.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Lehman thanked the community and the donors who helped raise $3.7 million of the needed of the $4.5 million it cost to purchase and renovate the building.“

This is your school,” Lehman said. “This is a community school.”

History of EMES

Maria Archer, K-8 principal who has been with the school since its inception, shared these reflections

About 16 years ago, long before I was hired as the principal and a teacher, this idea of a Mennonite Christian elementary school was a dream of a group of creative and determined parents.
Here is a quote from Lynette Mast, one of the founders of our school, as she describes those beginning conversations…

“It is hard to say how new ideas sprout. But sprout they do as one small conversation over dinner happens, a fleeting comment during a phone conversation is shared, one phrase ignites a spark in another’s mind. Connecting ideas, dreams and resources within community allows for an idea to sprout into a growing, living and thriving thing.”

What a beautiful way of describing just how these ideas began. These parents and community members knew that so many important life skills begin to develop in those early years.

They believed that the arts should be integrated into the learning of students and they believed that students need to be given the opportunity for daily physical activity.

They dreamed of a school that would nurture the love of learning in children,
– where a global perspective would be valued,
– where sensitivity to differences and empathy would be developed in children and
– where students would learn to communicate in peaceful and constructive ways.

They dreamed of a school where critical thinking would happen everyday in the classroom, where students would be challenged academically.

And they dreamed of all of these things happening in a community where faith development would be fostered and where students would talk about and practice what it means to be followers of Jesus.

And so EMES began in the fall of 2005.

As many of you know, EMES didn’t have a permanent home yet: While each temporary home for us had its limitations, each site helped us to refine our curriculum and the culture of our school.
Our first home was in the lower level of Lindale Mennonite Church. We realized that being connected to church was important – that it was important for our students to experience a community of faith…a place where they were valued and encouraged in their spiritual lives.

Three years later we moved to the North 11 Campus: We realized how important the outdoor space is to our students. We recognized how outside time where students could explore and create would be critical to daily life at our school.

And our third location was right next door, in the middle and high school building. The students and teachers were generous with their space and gave us classrooms to use until this building was finished.

What did we learn during the last year and and half? That we are a k-12 community. That we need each other, that when relationships are formed across grade levels, our students benefit, and when teachers of different divisions come together as a community, we are stronger….our vision can become reality.

And so our story continues. We look to our next phase when a Gathering space, for the elementary school, will be built, connected here to this building. The Gathering space will be the center of activity at our school. A place where we can meet – K-5 students for weekly Gathering, for all-school events. It will be a place for grandparents and parents to meet together for activities, where dessert theater can happen, where we can hold our international dance event, and we anticipate that many more school and community activities will take place when the Gathering space is built.

Today, we look forward to living into this new elementary school building. A place where we will continue to create our own memories and further our own story.

We thank those who came before us…who had the vision…and those who have given generously to complete this project. We love our new home.

Comments and prayer by Lynette Mast, EMES founder and teacher
It’s a pleasure to be here today, as the Kindergarten teacher, on THIS end of the move; it has been a journey, indeed!

This moment will be yet another, after many moments like it and many more to come, when it would be wise to pause and be IN the moment. To see, feel and know that there was a vision. A vision for a space allowing children to be just that, children. Where whimsical play and dreaming would be commonplace and even demanded, where dear friends would connect in simple and inspiring ways and where troubles would be lost in the enjoyment of learning about and loving our world. The vision included a space bubbling with activity, worship, creativity, connecting, singing, running, eating, collaborating, giving, sharing, restoring, and the list could go on and on. Where children could thrive in a rich and supportive environment .

It would be wise to be IN the moment. To see, feel and know.. that to get here it took risk taking, collective vision and a lot of hard work. It took embracing the connectedness of our community and reaching out to new ones. It took bringing people..many people.. to the table, encouraging them in what they knew best and were most passionate about, and collaborating for a common cause.

It would be wise to take a moment… Please pray with me…

God,

We ask blessings on this, our school.
May this building be a tool to continue Your good work with helping hands, loving hearts, and open minds.
May this building be a safe harbor for all who sail upon the sea of Life, and a beacon of hope to those on rough waters.
May this building be a garden, rooted with truth, compassion, and love, and blossoming into peace, justice and mercy, growing Your kingdom.
May this building be a rock in our community, invitational and an unwavering source of radical hospitality.
May we not forget those outside our walls who struggle with their own needs for shelter and nourishment, of the body, soul and mind; may we notice and be with them in their struggle.
We give thanks for so many generous people and hard working hands who made this possible.
We come with grateful hearts.
We ask blessings on this, our school.
May God’s peace be before us, peace be behind us, and peace be under our feet,
May God’s peace be within us, and over us, let all around us be God’s peace.
Amen

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