Head of School Updates: Academic Year 2020-21

The EMS Strategic Leadership Team consults with Paul Helmuth, administrative officer with Harrisonburg Fire and Rescue Services, medical advisors (including EMS parent medical professionals), the Virginia Department of Health, faculty, parents, and the EMS Board of Directors in its ongoing COVID-19 mitigation practices. The VDH believes our advantages of a smaller community, use of mostly private transportation, conscientious families for home health screening, and mitigation plans that meet or exceed state requirements for schools allowed for operating in person in fall 2020. In person learning for 2021 is scheduled to resume in mid January, and up for regular review.

Update: May 14, 2021

Dear EMS Family,

In chapel today, Mr. Curt Stutzman shared stories from his growing up years as the basis for reminding us of God’s unconditional love for each of us.  These encouraging words were a nice start our Friday, click here to be encouraged.

High School Community Service Day - Friday, May 21 from 8:30 - 2:00 pm

Please pay close attention to today’s emailed Blazin Bulletin for instructions about next Friday. Transportation will be different this year

2021-22 School Year Calendar

  • Click here for a month-by-month viewing of our master calendar.
  • Wednesdays will be full days next year EXCEPT for one/month for faculty professional development.  Early release Wednesdays will be at 1 pm.  Lunch will be served.

CDC announcement & EMS in school expectations

The CDC's notice to the public regarding vaccinated people not being required to wear masks is a wonderful encouragement for getting vaccinated!  The CDC also clarified that state, local, and employment situations may still have mask-wearing as a best practice. It is unclear whether the CDC plans to modify recommendations for children and schools. 

Given our school calendar does not allow the majority of students to reach full vaccination, EMS is requiring faculty and students to continue with mask-wearing expectations during the school day. 

Student Vaccines

  • VDH has updated vaccine requirements for students entering K, 7th Grade, and 12th Grade. Click School Vaccine Info (2).pdf for details and ensuring your student has the required vaccinations for school.
  • Age 12 & older COVID-19 Vaccines:  EMS is encouraging all eligible students to receive vaccines unless advised otherwise by your primary care physician.  Vaccine scheduling can happen here:

Health Department Vaccine Clinic Schedule

  • Harrisonburg - Every Thursday at the Harrisonburg Health Department
  • Staunton/Waynesboro - Every 2nd & 4th Thursday at the Waynesboro Health Dept.

Harrisonburg Community Activities Center 

305 South Dogwood Dr., Harrisonburg, VA 22801

May 21, 9:30a-12:30p: https://vaccineappointments.virginia.gov/appointment/en/client/registration?clinic_id=4317

May 28, 9:30a-12:30p: https://vaccineappointments.virginia.gov/appointment/en/client/registration?clinic_id=4483

CDC's vaccine locator by ZIP:  https://www.vaccines.gov/search/

 Blessings for a nice spring weekend!

Paul Leaman

Head of School

Update: May 7, 2021

Dear EMS Family,

Today we finished our first full week of May!  It is hard to believe we are down to four weeks of school remaining.  We anticipate finishing strong together!

We are busy planning for next year with growing confidence in our safety and capacity to return more closely to normal.  Please be aware of these needs and ideas we have in mind for next year.

  1. Your help is wanted in sharing our employment openings AND encouraging people you know would be an excellent teacher at EMS to apply. Please share this EMS Employment LinkApplications are currently being received for:
    • High School Social Studies Teacher, full-time.
    • Bus Drivers, part-time.
  2. EMS will encourage vaccinations of students and families.  As the age ranges expand, we will be regularly encouraging our eligible students to take the vaccine in efforts to reach the societal needs for herd immunity.  We want to play a part in allowing communities to safely open up, including our educational experiences in the classroom and in larger areas of gathering.  We hope to host a vaccination center for our community as part of this encouragement.  Stay tuned.
  3. Lunch periods will be developed so all school divisions, EMES, EMMS, and EMHS can safely eat within the dining hall area.  Details are yet to be finalized, but will likely involve three lunch shifts for the 3 school divisions.
  4. Full weekly schedules next year with expectations of "every student, every day" as our intended plan.  Wednesdays are planned to return to a full day schedule with one early release per month for faculty professional development. These early release days are tentatively scheduled for 12 noon on:  Aug 25, Sept 22, Oct 25, Nov 17, Dec 15, Jan 26, Feb 16, March 23, April 27, May 18

Here's the month by month calendar if you want to see these dates in context.

Gratefully yours,

Paul Leaman

Update: April 9, 2021

Dear EMS Family,

Spring is in the air! The warm sunshine, sudden rain showers, brilliant flowers, and buzzing lawn mowers beg us to come outdoors.  At EMS, spring brings on a host of activities and more opportunities away from computer screens. I am grateful and encourage you and your family to breathe in fresh air this weekend.  Please take note of these unique news items.

Vaccine Access for age 16 and older

Individuals who are interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine should pre-register or update their pre-registration record with the Virginia Department of Health at www.vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682).  A WHSV article with more information is available here.

8-12 Chapel on April 23 with a Zoom Workshop for Parents

Matt Ezzell (JMU professor), will be sharing with EMS the impact of the United States hypersexualized culture, specifically addressing the harmful nature of pornography.  Professor Ezzell’s chapel is scheduled for April 23rd with a follow-up Zoom workshop with parents in the evening of April 26th.  Mark your calendar and look for a link coming your way.

Everyone is welcome to view chapel services on the EMS Chapel Youtube channel. Subscribe to get a notification when a new video is posted.

Mr. Elwood Yoder’s Plans for Next Year

Mr. Yoder has decided to move on from teaching after 33 years at EMS!  Wow, what incredible dedication and set of contributions he has blessed our students and EMS with over the years.  

Mr. Yoder has the opportunity to research and write for a joint project of the Shenandoah Valley Mennonite Historians and the Virginia Mennonite Conference Historical Committee.  He is partnering with Steven Nolt to write a Virginia Mennonite History Book.  

I encourage you to express your gratitude to Mr. Yoder sometime during these final weeks of school. He would be glad to tell you more about this research project by email at elyoder@gmail.com

Host Family Needed

A short-term host family is immediately needed for a junior boy between now and June 4th, the end of this school year. A monthly stipend is provided to cover costs. If you have space and are open to assisting in this way, please contact Paul Leaman (leamanp@emhs.net or 540-578-0262) by Tuesday, April 13.

Employment Opportunities

Our families are an excellent resource for identifying and encouraging excellent teachers to consider working at EMS.  Please point people to EMS’s employment webpage where they can apply anytime.  We will also post our most recent openings on this page. We will soon post an opening to fill Mr. Yoder’s position, so please send qualified history teachers our direction.

Gratefully yours,

Paul Leaman

Head of School

Update: March 26, 2021

Dear EMS Family,

It has been wonderful having most of our school community back in person this week! The hints of spring, warm air, budding flowers, and greening grasses are refreshing.

EMS is welcoming all students to be in person every day from now through the end of the school year - assuming continued trends from vaccinations and the reduction of COVID-19 transmission. 

EMS continues to request each family and student to practice safe COVID protocols, stay home if anyone is sick in the house, and to perform a daily home screening.  Students with employment responsibilities and those playing community sports are especially urged to practice mask-wearing and other best practice protocols specifically when in close proximity to others.  

We realize each family's risk tolerance varies; however, we do believe our school environment is safe and effective against COVID-19 transmission from one person to another.  EMS commits to continuing our strong mitigation efforts of screening, physical distancing in classrooms, one-way hallways, air flow and purification, outdoor eating spaces and no talking when eating indoors, along with proper mask-wearing.  

EMS will provide the safest environment we know how but stop trying to keep track of everyone's activities as our state and nation "re-open."  With all employees vaccinated who want a vaccine and all other mitigation efforts, we really want to prioritize in person learning for every student and encourage all students to come back to school. 

Many students are involved in spring sports and with competitions now outside, HOME fans are permitted at EMS Athletic Events. Home fans may include immediate and extended family, friends, and EMS students/staff. In accordance with VISAA policy, spectators will be masked and distanced at all times. If you need to take a mask break, please ensure 10+ft of distancing. Tennis matches at EMU will adhere to EMU protocols which only allows parents to attend. Parents will need to be masked and physically distanced at all times. You may stand on the public sidewalk to watch. Note that you may not park in front of the courts as that is now a bike lane. You may park in the EMU Commons lot and walk over to the match. Thank you for your cooperation and continued commitment to keeping the EMS and broader community safe. As EMS teams move into post-season play, we will revisit these guidelines. 

Stay up to date on team schedules HERE.

Enjoy the beautiful spring weekend!

Paul Leaman

Head of School

Update: March 5, 2021

Dear EMS Family,

I am excited about this coming week’s forecast!  Spring is around the corner and the addition of our outside campus will be a gift in our daily work and learning.

Spring Break: March 13 - 21.

  • Please plan your spring break activities around healthy and safe pandemic practices!  This Activity Risk Assessment is an excellent tool for determining acceptable activities. Families planning high risk activities should plan for a precautionary waiting period before returning to in-person schooling.  If you are unsure about an activity, please ask me or your division principal and we will help you decide.  For High Risk Activities:
    • Distance Learning w/ COVID test 5-7 days after the activity, return to school with no symptoms and a negative test on Day 8.
    • Distance Learning for 10 days after the activity, return to school with no symptoms on Day 11.

EMS and Medical Advisor Recommendations

  • COVID-19 remains a real pandemic.  Vaccinations will NOT alter our mitigation practices at school, and we ask you to be equally precautious at home and in your lifestyle choices for the sake of other students and their families.
  • EMS vaccinations allow students and families living within the low and medium risk activities to attend school in-person beginning on March 22. (Activity Risk Assessment)

End-of-Year Plans

  • We are working to ensure important community events can safely happen this spring.  Be on the lookout for more details.  The following opportunities are things we hope many students can anticipate.
    • Increasing field trips and outdoor activities, including all spring sports.
    • MS Explore and HS Experiential Term
    • Senior Trip (modified)
    • Junior-Senior Banquet (Outdoor venue)
    • Commencement (Outdoor venue)

Looking Ahead to 2021-22 School Year

  • Thank you to the many parents who responded to our survey about Wednesday early release days. This was helpful in discerning our weekly schedule.
  • Our goal is to move toward all students being in person as soon as possible.  We are also planning for the possibility that some may require Distance Learning support at the beginning of the year.
  • Distance Learning (DL) requires extra teacher support and time.
    • IF DL is necessary, EMS will plan on weekly early dismissals (1:00) every Wednesday.  We think this may be required for the first quarter. 1:00 dismissals will include lunch. 
    • IF we do not need to have Distance Learners, then only one Wednesday per month will be an early dismissal for professional development.
    • A final decision will be made in July/Aug.

We are interested in finishing this year with as many students as possible coming to school in person.  We believe the social experience as humans lifts one another’s spirits, creates greater hope, and definitely enriches the learning experience.  

Here’s to a hopeful spring!

Paul Leaman

Head of School

Update: Feb. 24, 2021

Dear EMS Family,

On behalf of our faculty & staff, a heartfelt thanks for:

  • The periodic snacks, treats, meals, and love you give us!  Your kindness keeps your spirits lifted. Thursday morning, we enjoyed the breakfast treats provided by 8th grade parents.
  • Successful winter sports seasons and the upcoming fall (yes fall) and spring seasons.  
    • We are proud of our girls and boys teams, both competing in the VISAA state tournament this week. The girls made it to the first round and the boys made it to the semifinals. Congratulations for successful seasons!
    • Three cheers to our coaches for not only supporting and developing players, but also for building teams, camaraderie, encouraging academics, and keeping our athletes focused in the classroom and in the game.
    • A special shout out to Athletic Director Andrew Gascho for the calisthenics he has done to create opportunities for our coaches and athletes.  
  • Students with parental support for prioritizing learning, whether from home as a distance learner or in the classroom.  We are proud of our students’ efforts to focus, complete assignments, and actively participate in their learning opportunities.
  • Amazing grace and patience with so many schedule changes associated with weather, professional development, and the planned mental health day on Friday, 2/26.

Faculty & Staff Vaccination Updates

  • Faculty & staff are scheduled to receive their 2nd vaccinations on Friday 2/26 and Friday 3/5.  Two weeks after the 2nd vaccine, faculty/staff immunity will be believed adequate to prevent any major illness from COVID. We will celebrate. 
  • Vaccinations will NOT alter our mitigation practices at school and we ask you to be equally precautious at home and in your lifestyle choices for the sake of other students and their families.
  • Vaccinations will allow us to return more closely to our goal of Every Student Every Day being in person.  We are seeking medical advice on the wisdom of loosening restrictions shown below in red under “Reminder Listing” AFTER Spring Break.

Reminder Listing of our 2nd Semester Commitment to One Another

  • Stay home when anyone in the household is sick.
  • Stay home when anyone in the household is considered a Close Contact, is under quarantine, isolation, or in the process of being COVID-19 tested.
  • Completing the CDC recommended Daily Home Screening for Students before leaving for school every day, or, requesting a screening upon arrival. Answering the screening questions honestly and staying home if slight symptoms without a known cause are present.
  • Consistently practicing mask-wearing in public areas and participating in only medium and low-risk behaviors outside of school.
  • Requiring my student to do distance learning if they are involved in any high risk indoor community sports or athletics practices and programs. Written permission from my student's principal is required for any exception.
  • Refraining from gatherings of 10 or more unless masked and distanced.
  • Requiring my student to do distance learning if they work in high risk public settings UNLESS his/her work environment is approved in writing by my student's principal.
  • Following guidelines posted on EMS website postings such as, "When it is Safe to be Around Others," and/or requesting school permission following a test, quarantine, or isolation period before sending my student back to school.
  • Communicating with my student's principal whenever a CHANGE in learning platform (distance or in-person) is desired.  Please Note:  Sticking with one learning platform as consistently as possible (at least 2-week blocks of time) assists our teachers in serving your students to the best of their ability.
  • Acknowledging and accepting that my student, should they become sick at school, will be isolated in the school's infirmary and that I will arrange for immediate pick-up of student and siblings.
  • Acknowledging and accepting the health risks of attending school during the COVID-19 pandemic AND waiving the school and all other EMS community members from any/all liability associated with risks of this contagious disease.

K-12 Spring Break - March 15 - 20

  • HS activities (such as athletics, etc.) that have been pre-approved will be permitted between March 18-20.
  • Please plan your spring break activities around healthy and safe pandemic practices!  This Activity Risk Assessment is an excellent tool for determining acceptable activities. Families planning high risk activities should plan for a precautionary waiting period before returning to in-person schooling.  If you are unsure about an activity, please ask me or your division principal and we will help you decide.  For High Risk Activities:
    • Distance Learning w/ COVID test 5-7 days after the activity, return to school with no symptoms and a negative test on Day 8.
    • Distance Learning for 10 days after the activity, return to school with no symptoms on Day 11.
  • The end of Spring Break marks the effective period for faculty/staff vaccinations. Given continued COVID incident rate improvements, we are hopeful students living within medium to low-risk lifestyles will choose to be on campus for in-person learning for the remainder of the year. 

Update: Feb. 4, 2021

Dear EMS Family,

Last week I took a break from sending a weekly update as there wasn’t significant change in any of our plans.  That feels like positive progress. This week’s update is also filled with encouraging news and reminders to keep on being conscientious and conservative in gauging your family’s health and staying home when wellness is in question.


Upcoming Weather Plans

EMS will cancel classes on the first “Snow Day” of a weather event, with any subsequent day when we cannot be in person from that event becoming a distance learning day.  An example from this past Sunday’s snowfall would have been:

  • NO School on Monday, Feb.1
  • Distance Learning on Tuesday, Feb. 2

This update addresses some questions and concerns that arose from both students and teachers when we had a distance learning day this past Monday rather than a snow day.

Thank You Harrisonburg City

We are grateful for our Friendly City who included EMS faculty/staff in Group 1b vaccination priority. As of this evening, all EMS faculty and staff have been given the opportunity to receive the first of two Moderna vaccinations. We are hopeful for the second round of vaccinations in about 4 weeks and believe these will help protect our faculty, staff and students. Plans are to continue strong mitigation efforts throughout the school year but also allow more of our distance learners to be in person.


Explore (6-8) and E-Term (9-12)

Middle and high school students learned of localized field trip experiences being planned for April 19-21.  Middle school students will participate in grade specific activities and high school students will sign up for trips of most interest to them. High school E-Term registration materials are attached (2021 E-Term Registration and Selection Form.pdf ) for your convenience. 

Distance Learner permissions for E-term and athletic teams with in person learners will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis close to the time the activity begins.  

Athletic Seasons Update

We are happy to be able to offer ongoing athletic opportunities for student athletes. Despite altered seasons and fan limitations, let’s all root for our Flames!  Follow @EMSFlames on Twitter for updates on games and scores. 


Winter Sports 

Varsity Girls and Varsity Boys basketball teams are nearing the end of their season and are prepping for the VISAA Invitational Tournament. Tournament guidelines require masking at all times and pre-tournament PCR testing. Watch livestream of girls and boys varsity home basketball games here.


MS Basketball Skill Development

Beginning Feb 17 (approximately). Athletes will remain physically distanced and will wear masks at all times so they can continue to attend school in person. There will be more information sent to MS Students to gauge interest so we can communicate the schedule with families.


Fall Season: Feb 15 - March 13

Varsity Soccer - Feb 15

  • Practices will adhere to physical distancing and masked  
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners
    • Team will not play other opponents

Varsity Volleyball - Feb 15

  • Practice plan and potential competition still being finalized, athletes masked
    • Depending on practice plan, athletes could remain in person until competition where they would need to transition online. More on this to come. 

Varsity Cross Country - Feb 15

  • Practices will adhere to physical distancing and masked unless running 10+ feet apart
    • Competition plan still being finalized
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners

Varsity Girls Tennis - Feb 15

  • Practices will adhere to physical distancing and masked unless 10+ feet apart
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners


Spring Season: Feb 22-May 22

There are still a number of details that need to be processed with our Medical Advisors including masking of EMS athletes/opponents and travel protocols. 

Varsity Co-ed Golf - February 22

  • Practices and competition are naturally distanced
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners

Varsity Baseball - February 22

  • Practices and competition are naturally distanced
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners

Varsity Track and Field - February 22

  • Practices and competition are naturally distanced
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners

Varsity Boys Tennis - February 22

  • Practices and competition are naturally distanced
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners

Varsity Girls Soccer - March 1

  • Practices will begin with physical distancing and fully masked. 
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners during practice before Spring Break. Decisions will be made following Spring Break regarding the in-person learning plan. 
  • Middle School Girls Soccer, Track, Boys Tennis Club
    • These sports will be setup on a skill development practice schedule beginning late March/early April
    • Athletes will be able to remain in-person learners




COVID-19 Reminders

  1. Currently, the Harrisonburg City area, having > 50 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days, is a “Highest Risk” area. Therefore, if your child has symptoms of those which could be consistent with COVID, following the linked VDH guidelines, your student would:
  • Stay home and isolate for 10 days, OR
  • See their Provider, and if at the Provider, they test "NEGATIVE" or are clinically determined to be negative for COVID-19 (there is an alternate, non-infectious explanation for their symptoms), they may return to school once symptoms have improved AND the student has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications. This only applies if your student was not a “close contact.”  EMS accepts the judgement of your Provider regarding when your student can return to school.
  1. If you learn that your student was a "close contact" to someone with COVID-19, the student must stay home and quarantine for 14 days from the last date of contact. Since the incubation period for COVD-19 can be 14 days, the student must stay home for the 14 days EVEN IF THEY HAVE A NEGATIVE COVID-19 TEST. If symptoms develop during the 14-day quarantine period, please consult your healthcare provider.

I am privileged to see our students in action, both in person and online.  I am so proud of our students' commitment to connect and engage in varied learning platforms with their teachers and classmates. You give me hope!

Update: Jan. 22, 2021

Dear Parents and Students,

Join me in celebrating good news!

  • Students in our buildings!  It was great having K-8 students back in person this week, and we anticipate Grades 9-12 joining us on Monday, Jan. 25.  This phased plan has been very helpful as we’ve ironed out several operational kinks.  Thank you for being a flexible and understanding community!
  • Impressive class happenings. I keep getting wind from a variety of staff who peek into classrooms and virtual spaces reporting with amazement the quality learning experiences of students as instruction looks differently. After seeing a lesson from Mr. Blosser, MS & HS math teacher, I asked about the difference he is seeing in student learning. He said, “Before, students worked to complete the assignment not knowing if they got the problem right; NOW, they get immediate feedback and are working until they get correct answers.” Aspects of this pandemic are making us stronger educators and learners. I am so proud of our faculty & students!
  • CFD Congratulations! Students, faculty, and staff have met our goal together to raise $150,000 for financial aid, academics, and activities during Christmas Fund Drive 2020-2021. As a collective "thank you", Friday, April 16th is a day off from school. 

I attribute this success  to the love that students, teachers, staff, and supporters have for our learning community. Together, we're investing our heart, soul, and hard-earned dollars into our most important asset for the future - our children and youth. I'm grateful to be a part of that vision. Here's a look at the numbers as of Jan 21:

  • $166,443 total gifts
  • 492 generous donors
  • 101 students, teachers, and staff wrote 1672 postcards

We'll announce top earners, top writers, class prizes and do a prize drawing for participants during chapel on January 29. If you have any gifts or pledges you haven't returned to the front office, please get them in as soon as possible.

  • Our Principals!  I join Governor Northam in naming this coming week,1/24-1/30, Principal Appreciation Week. I have first hand knowledge that Ms. Archer and Mr. King have exceeded the heroics mentioned by Governor Northam!  Join me in thanking them this week in whatever creative fashion you wish.  A one liner in an email even goes a long way! 


Click here to see fun photos and read more of our principals in action.

  • Our Substitutes! We are finding growing demand on our substitute teachers this year. They have been courageous and extremely loyal, coming in to support faculty who find themselves required to quarantine. We couldn’t keep operating without our excellent substitutes.  Parents, if your schedule allows you to join our substitute teacher list, PLEASE DO!  You can sign up by emailing Christine Fairfield, fairfieldc@emhs.net, or calling 540-236-6000.  Thanks for considering.

In conclusion, thank you for following our strict guidelines for staying home whenever anyone in your household has COVID symptoms, is waiting test results, or happens to be quarantined.  You are keeping our buildings low risk and our students and faculty as safe as possible!



Paul Leaman

Head of School

Update: Jan. 15, 2021

Dear Parents and Students,

The theology of EMS is often summarized as “Jesus is the center of our faith, community is the center of our life, and reconciliation is the center of our work.” For me, the violence in our nation’s capital and the ongoing concerns of civil disruption verifies the importance of EMS’s commitment to God’s love for neighbor; the other. That we are all brothers and sisters called to stick together; we are stronger together as a human family. And, the hard work of peacemaking and restoring broken relationships is a powerful way for creating a hopeful future and world.  We have work to participate in!  Please join me in the language you choose, conversations you have, and prayers you lift to call for peaceful and unifying actions in the days ahead for the United States.

Remember: This is a 3-day weekend & Spring Term begins Tuesday, Jan. 19 @ 8:30 a.m.

  • K-8: In-Person and Distance Learning Options
  • Grades 9-12: Distance Learning with In-Person options beginning 1/25

Grades 6 - 12 schedules for Spring Term have been updated and are present in PowerSchool and have been emailed. Students should also check their school emails for notifications from teachers. Please contact the Guidance Office at 540-236-6004 in the event you do not have class schedule information.

Family Commitment Form - Required completion before your student returns to EMS.

Thank you to the 328/358 that have completed this as of Friday morning - very impressive.

Please note:  This form is NOT intended to pressure your family to choose in-person schooling. We want you to make the right choice for your family. All students, regardless of whether they are in-person or doing distance learning will be served to the very best of our ability.

Please notify your principal:

  • IF you want to change the response you made on the Family Commitment Form.
  • WHEN your family wishes to make a change between distance learning and in-person so we can prepare teachers for this change.

Notes from Thursday night’s parent representative meeting.

  • 6th Grade Marlow Nichol’s interview with Mr. Leaman on returning to school.
  • Anxiety about being “The Family” that brings COVID to EMS:  No one is immune to this possibility and EMS will NOT get into the blame game. We will simply continue practicing best mitigation efforts that include isolation/quarantine requirements for Covid-19 positive individuals and people identified as a Close Contact.
  • Schools are NOT outbreak centers:  To date, schools have not been found to be areas of high concern for an outbreak.  An outbreak is ANY time transmission occurs from one individual to another . . . and this just hasn’t been a frequent occurrence in schools. Mitigation efforts work and this includes the need for immediate response whenever we learn of a COVID case or Close Contact in the building.  
  • EMS Communication Plans when COVID Situations Arise.  These communications will be phone calls/texts or emailed communications for expedited purposes.
  • COVID Positive Cases: EMS will contact trace and parents of all suspected close contacts will be notified. These students will transition to distance learning for 14 days or until medically cleared.
  • Close Contact Cases: EMS will require Close Contacts to do distance learning for 14 days or until medically cleared. Families whose students may have rubbed shoulders with a Close Contact will be notified as a Contact (of a Close Contact) and asked to be especially attentive to health changes.  These students (Contact of a Close Contact) will still be permitted to attend school unless they later get identified as a Close Contact. 
  • General School Communication: If, for example, we need to have a significant portion of our school community go to distance learning as a precautionary measure to reduce the potential for COVID transmission, all parents will be made aware.
  • EMS as a LOW RISK environment is our shared responsibility and commitment! 
    • IF you are doing High Risk activities or numerous Medium Risk activities - choose distance learning at this time.
    • This Activity Risk Assessment is an excellent tool for determining acceptable activities for attending in-person school.  If you are unsure about an activity, please ask me or your division principal and we will help you decide.
    • Now is NOT the time for things like sleep-overs, eating inside restaurants, and expanding your family’s “safety bubble”. 

Sports Livestream:

EMS varsity basketball teams are now competing (with all participants on distance learning) and everyone can watch home games for FREE from the comfort of your favorite couch!  

Subscribe NOW, share the link, or point people to our website’s homepage.

Celebrating Life & Work

Monday, January 18, marks an important day to remember, live into, and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. as an inspirational leader with a clear message that resonates with the values of EMS. His call for justice as a key ingredient for a more peaceful world is our work  today. Refresh your memory on MLK’s message. Here are 17 inspiring quotes to get you started.

Blessing on your week, stay safe, and let’s keep learning together!


Paul Leaman

Head of School

COVID Reference Documents - All are posted on the website, COVID-19 Info button

Update: Jan. 6, 2021

Dear EMS Family,

During my growing up years, and to this day, my brothers and sister do not always agree. I imagine we are normal. Our EMS family is also normal in this regard, but what is unique for us is our resolve to have one another’s backs and do all we can to support, encourage, and bring out the best in our students and one another despite differences from time to time. Decision points about school and activities this year have been stretching, and now is another such time. Thank you for being a resilient flexible glue that helps keep us together especially during these times! 

Updated School Calendar - Summary

  • EMES (K-5)
    • Week of January 11: Distance Learning - NO EMS childcare option this week; 
      • M, T, Th, F classes meet during scheduled times
      • Wednesday is a specialty class day
    • Week of January 19 onward: In-Person Learning

 EMMS (6-8)

    • Week of January 11: Distance Learning
      • M, T, Th, F classes meet during scheduled times
      • Wednesday is a flex day 
    • Week of January 19 onward: In-Person Learning

 EMHS (9-12)

    • Week of January 11 and Week of January 19: Distance Learning
      • M, T, Th, F classes meet during scheduled times from 8:30 - 3:00
      • Wednesday is a flex day 
    • Week of January 25 onward: In-Person Learning
  • K-12 Note:  In-Person weeks follow the daily schedule from 8:30-3:00 with high school Block Zero classes meeting at 8:00.
    • Every Wednesday is an Early Release at 12 noon during the pandemic season.

Adjusted calendar explanation

Currently, we are experiencing the highest COVID-19 incident rates of the pandemic and rates are projected to peak in mid to late January. .  We have learned several additional measures that will make our students, faculty, and school environment as safe as possible and hopefully, avoid the need to revert to distance learning.  Reconvening in person on January 19 for K-8 and January 25 for 9-12 gives adequate time for:

  • All families to tighten their social “bubbles” after New Years weekend;
  • Every family to sign an enhanced commitment of their best efforts in keeping COVID-19 out of the school building;
  • EMS to re-think new strategies for doing lunch more safely inside over the winter months; and,
  • Securing adequate faculty/staff coverage for all classes and courses.
  • Time to ensure a safe K-8 re-entry to school, before reintroducing high school students back into the upper building. This helps to make sure we have enough healthy teachers and staffing before introducing 6-12 back at the same time in one building. This also allows time for high school students with employment in public places to discern whether they return in person or remain distance learners. 

As we move forward, EMS intends to prioritize the safe environment in our buildings over community incident rates. Our goal is to remain in-person even as COVID-19 incident rates in the community are high. The BEST way for our buildings to remain safe requires each family, student, faculty, and staff member to be extra vigilant in monitoring their health. 

We require the following standards to be met every day before a student enters an EMS building.

  • Ensure everyone in your household is healthy.
  • No one in your household is considered a Close Contact, under isolation, in quarantine, or in the process of being COVID-19 tested due to symptoms or suspected contact with a positive COVID-19 carrier.
  • Each EMS student is consistently practicing mask-wearing in public areas and participating only in low-risk behaviors outside of school. At this time, students participating in indoor community sports, gatherings of more than 10 people unless masked and distanced, or working in public spaces are required to do distance learning.
  • Every student, faculty and staff member attending school passes the Daily Home Screening for Students (attached) with flying colors . . . or stays home. 

What happens if/when we learn of a COVID-19 positive case at EMS?

  • The person who is COVID-19 positive will be sent home with requested isolation protocol. See Evaluating a Child with COVID Symptoms or Exposure
  • All Close Contacts (individuals suspected to have been within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more during a 24 hour period) will be informed and requested to quarantine at home. See Evaluating a Child with COVID Symptoms or Exposure
  • Positive cases at school will be decision points with attempts to ensure safety while providing the best learning environment possible. In situations where the number of Close Contacts significantly disrupts attendance, EMS will take time to pivot to virtual learning until isolation and quarantine periods are over.

Please be on the lookout!

EMS will be requiring families of In-Person Learners to again commit to doing all they can to keep our school community safe and will be distributing this document for your electronic signature later this week.  Additionally, we will be communicating times when high school students can pick up books and resources for their 2nd semester courses.


Paul Leaman

Head of School

Update: Dec. 31, 2020

Dear EMS Parents and Students,

Happy New Year!  So many are ready to close the 2020 chapter; however, we end this year so grateful for your dedication that has allowed our school community to keep learning and growing. May God’s blessings continue to be seen and shared as we learn together in 2021!

We anticipate seeing your students by Zoom, following their daily class schedule, beginning Monday, January 4 @ 8:30 a.m.

Middle & High School Schedule Reminder

Block One: 8:30-9:30am

Block Two: 10:00-11:00am

Lunch: 11:00-12:30pm

Block Three: 12:30- 1:30pm

Block Four: 2:00-3:00pm

Given the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, we have spoken with numerous people to gauge the wisdom of our current plan for virtual learning the week of Jan. 4 progressing to in-person learning the week of Jan. 11.  We have received a range of counsel from support to continue with our current plan to extending our virtual plan a bit longer. Early next week I am meeting with faculty to help discern whether we will need to adjust our plan for finishing up first semester and beginning the next. I will keep you posted.  Either way, EMS commits to provide meaningful learning experiences for your student(s), and we want these to be in-person as much as possible the remainder of this school year!

Middle School Basketball

Our priority for middle school students is in-person school; therefore, we plan to wait until after the projected holiday spike of COVID-19 cases before starting MS basketball.  Our plan and hope is to run MS Basketball Skill & Development clinics/practices during February and March. 

Christmas Fund Drive Update

We have much to be grateful for. Look what our community has done together! Track our progress, see videos of school life, or share with others at www.easternmennonite.org/cfd. 

  • 272 generous supporters have given $76,224 in total gifts already for Christmas Fund Drive. We just reached 50% of our goal today!
  • Over 100 students, teachers, and staff wrote 1667 postcards or created personal giving pages

Tuesday, January 12 - Student packets containing any gifts, pledges, or completed reports are due at school.

I pray your family has a really good and safe New Year’s Eve and weekend.  As we prepare for returning to school, please remember to be vigilant in paying close attention to your family’s health, mask-wearing and physical distancing when around people outside of your “bubble.”  It has been your conscientious efforts that have allowed us to do school as we prefer, and that commitment is more important now than ever!

With gratitude for you.

Paul Leaman

Head of School


Update: Dec. 19, 2020

The photo says it all . . . you treat, feed, and love on EMS faculty and staff like royalty!  


I encourage you to read A Different Kind of Christmas by Andrea Wenger and enjoy the photos of students and faculty celebrating through a variety of Christmas activities.

And remember - No classes between now and January 3.  All grades and classes begin again on January 4 using distance learning protocol for that week.  On January 11, we look forward to seeing students in person again (except for students scheduled for continuing in distance learning). The week of January 4 will also be an important time for ensuring excellent family health. I plan to remind everyone of important home health screening procedures the week of January 4.  Until then, stay healthy and well!

Merry Christmas from all the faculty & staff of EMS!

May God’s love and the peace of Christ fill your heart and home this season in the New Year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus who brings hope to all people!


Paul Leaman

Head of School

Update: Dec. 11, 2020

Dear EMS Family,

Here we are about to enter the last week of school before Christmas break!  I am grateful for the quality learning experiences and opportunities we have been able to accomplish first semester in safe ways.  We plan for more of the same and growing opportunities as the vaccine and spring come our way. We can do this and make it!  

Yesterday’s press release by Governor Northam reiterated the importance of mask-wearing, physical distancing, and staying home whenever possible.  He also clarified the importance of activity for young people by permitting schools and athletic programs to continue with safe protocols and localized decisions.  We are pleased to be able to continue with our schedules and activities as planned and highlighted below.

Winter Sports

Indoor track and varsity basketball for girls and boys teams are proceeding with full team practices the month of December with interscholastic competitions scheduled in January. Game attendance by fans is extremely limited by total numbers and will be restricted to immediate family and total attendance allowable at the time. 

Basketball, as a contact sport, is considered a moderate - high risk activity.  For this reason, basketball teams will be creating a “bubble” environment and will continue with distance learning throughout the basketball season as a courtesy and preventative measure. Interested parents have met with school administration this past week to help us define important measures for a successful basketball season for our students.  Mr. Gascho (Athletic Director) and Mr. King (HS Principal) have worked closely together with Coach Seibert and Coach Routzahn on creating practice and game protocol that we believe will allow our teams excellent preparation and safety standards that will keep our players safe and other schools interested in competing against us.

  • Required Reading for EMS Basketball Players and Parents:  EMS Return to Play - Basketball
  • Basketball Players and Parents will also be receiving an email from Mr. Gascho with a video that outlines our plan. 
  • Decisions are still being made regarding Middle School Basketball. At this time MS sports remain paused. 

School Instructional Schedule



Grades K-5

Grades 6-12

Dec. 14 - 18

Distance Learning

Distance Learning

Dec. 21 - Jan. 3

Christmas Break

Jan. 4 - Jan. 8

Distance Learning

Distance Learning

Jan. 11 onward

In Person Learning

In Person Learning

Note:  EMES has daycare services being provided from 8 - 4 for pre-registered families.

Thank you parents for your support and appreciation!

Faculty and staff were given Christmas Tea Boxes To-Go this past Wednesday thanks to many parents who baked and students who packaged goodies for all EMS employees.  You warm our hearts, and we pray God’s special blessing on your families this Christmas season.

Ms. Archer & Mr. King also met with parent representatives to learn ways we can best help students during distance learning and as we look to our educational plans in January.  Parents showered them and our faculty with much appreciation for our teacher’s hard work.  Here are several quotes.  This type of encouragement brightens our life and spurs us on!!!

  • "I don't see my 9th grader during the day except for lunch break, which I love. It really feels like he's in school."
  • "I feel like my student can access the classes on Powerschool and we're grateful for the hard work of teachers and staff. The instruction has been great so far and the expectation to be online and take attendance has been key and very helpful!" 
  • "We're thankful of the efforts to be sure that we were IN SCHOOL as long as we were, and all the efforts taken to keep students safe." 
  • "The AP classes are tough, but they should be, and we're glad to see that."
  • "I appreciate even knowing that teachers, staff, and admin are planning things for our students in the spring...you can always call something off but you can't put it together last minute. Thank you!"

Blessings as you and your family finish up your work and school responsibilities prior to our Christmas holiday.  Finish Flames Strong and may Christ’s light fill you with love, joy, and hope to share with those around you.  I pray for safety, health and special care for you and your loved ones.

Update: Nov. 24, 2020

Dear Parents, Students and Faculty,

Congratulations on making it safely to Thanksgiving! We have accomplished a great deal of learning already, and we anticipate much more to come. Know that we are deeply grateful for you: our life is more full because of you, and we pray God’s blessings fill your table and heart this Thanksgiving season!

Since Saturday, all public and private schools have received public health notices with recommendations to make learning between Thanksgiving and Christmas virtual and to cancel winter sports.  Last evening, we received another notice stating these are public health recommendations, not mandates, with acknowledgment that many schools have implemented successful mitigation efforts to date.  The heightened concern comes now because of currently rising COVID-19 incidence trends AND awareness that Thanksgiving is one of the most traveled holidays. While staying home is the lowest risk, Dr. Kornegay of VDH stated that a learning program that keeps the younger grades in the classroom with older students studying virtually is acceptable. This is the direction EMS plans to follow

EMS goals and important community expectations: EMS’s goal remains to be in person as much as possible this school year.  Our greatest chances for this is to ensure an environment whereby all our faculty and staff can be confident in their personal safety and well-being. Thank you for committing to keep yourself and those around you safe. 

EMES:  We continue plans for remaining open for in person learning from Nov. 30 - Dec. 11 with Wednesdays having a noon dismissal. EMES families who participate in the following types of activities are requested to do virtual learning in an effort to keep our classrooms as low-risk as possible. "Risky" activities that warrant distance learning include:

  • Interactions with others within 6 feet who are not wearing a mask for 10 - 15 minutes, unless they are part of your household and known to be COVID-free.
  • Live in a household with an individual who is sick and undiagnosed.
  • Traveled, lodged, or eaten with others who have not had health screenings for COVID-19.
  • Eaten indoors in a public setting.
  • Participated in indoor gatherings of more than 25 people.

EMMS & EMHS:  Students will be in distance learning from Nov. 30 - Dec. 18. With the recommendation by VDH to be virtual and cancel winter sports, we are exploring whether we permit any class to meet in person between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are also interested in learning whether the VHSL and/or local public schools cancel winter sports. In the meantime: 

  • All high school in person classes will shift to distance learning on Monday, 11/30 and Tuesday, 12/1.  Faculty & staff may be in the building, but no students are to be on campus during these days.
  • All winter sports and extracurricular activities are cancelled from Wednesday, 11/25 through Tuesday, 12/1.

More clarity regarding class and athletic options will be forthcoming by December 1.

Thanks for your understanding and help in caring for one another and our community.



Paul Leaman, Head of School

Maria Archer, K-8 Principal

Justin King, 9-12 Principal

Update: Nov. 13, 2020

Dear EMS Community,

Now is an important time for everyone to step up vigilance in COVID mitigation practices! Earlier this week I learned some of our EMS medical advisors are seeing an uptick in COVID-related  treatment. Today, I learned from sister schools in Pennsylvania that several counties are requiring schools to spin to virtual classrooms.  Our school has done well because of your support of best practices and so my encouragement is to stay the course of mask wearing, maintaining physical distancing when in public, and being cautious and careful in our activities.

In planning for the upcoming Distance Learning season, now is a good time to prepare your students with designated learning spaces and structures that will guide them toward success.  Here are a few tips that might help your student focus while in classes at home.

  • Talk about the life benefits for doing distance learning well.  Many professions rely on proficient home-based offices.
  • Designate space with good lighting, a table/desk, and an upright chair.
  • Ensure adequate space for a laptop, a textbook, and writing or drawing zone. 
  • Create a place where your student can listen, talk, and laugh without disturbing others.

We imagine our virtual class times to be engaging and interactive and want your student to be excited about learning from their “home office”.  It will be a learning experience for all of us and preparing a space for success is the best way to begin.



Grades K-5

Grades 6-12

Nov. 25 - 29

Thanksgiving Break

Nov. 30 - Dec. 11

In Person Learning

Distance Learning

Dec. 14 - 18

Distance Learning

Distance Learning

Dec. 21 - Jan. 3

Christmas Break

Jan. 4 - Jan. 8

Distance Learning

Distance Learning

Jan. 11 onward

In Person Learning

In Person Learning

Why I love being part of the EMS Flame family and what we have learned this year:

  • Social and emotional health come first. We care for and encourage one another!  Please let us know if your student is not feeling adequately cared for.
  • Adaptation and flexibility are essential.  Our students are learning significantly more than most their age this year because we can do in-person education. We have also established strong relationships and classroom patterns between teachers and students so that distance learning can be successful. Our dedicated teachers and students are applying themselves and working overtime and thereby bringing out the best in one another. 
  • Outdoor schooling is a plus! Kindergarten to senior, EMS students, teachers and SCO have enlarged the learning and social environment to include fresh air. It has been a delight seeing students enjoying the outdoors.
  • Athletics can still happen. Dedicated athletes can train and prepare for hopeful seasons AND everyone can participate through fun intramural contests. We anticipate successful teams and athletics as a special place of belonging for many students.
  • Music heals. Through special masks instrumentalists can play and with microphone amplification choral groups can sing while standing apart outside. Prepared singers even helped serenade a 90th birthday celebration from outside at VMRC. 
  • Les Mis, our outdoor musical production turned heads. The vision of director Joy Anderson and the dedication of nearly 40 students and many community volunteers showcased incredible talent and entertainment for three “sold out” shows.  
  • We respect each other and appreciate our differences. In addition to COVID, our students demonstrate maturity beyond their years by honoring and caring for one another even when broader society is polarized.  
  • The future looks bright. This fall’s “solar barnraising” will allow us to generate approximately one-third of our energy demands from the sunshine. Many thanks to 45 volunteers who showed up to help install our 357 solar panels on the upper building.
  • We have been blessed with good health.  Our community takes seriously their responsibilities for safe practices and staying home when health is questionable because we are in this together!


Update: Nov. 6, 2020

Dear Parents, Students, and Faculty,

I hope to you at our Friday Night Live Auction at 7:30 p.m.!  You can still join the fun by registering here.

Thank you to the many parents who met with teachers by Zoom this past Tuesday.  We are continually looking for positive outcomes from our new ways of doing things this year and the option of virtual parent-teacher meetings may be one! We have already completed the first week of November and begun the new grading period that runs from Nov. 1 - Jan. 15.  Start strong!

Hats off to everyone involved in Les Miserables! You created a phenomenal show and demonstrated, through the message of the show and your performance, a powerful message of hope and promise in doing the right thing.  Thank you and congratulations for your hard work.

Athletics is another great way students grow, develop, perform, and showcase great things happening at EMS.

Athletic Update

EMS intends to begin Winter sports (Girls' & Boys' Basketball for MS & HS and Indoor Track) on November 30. We are reviewing VHSL guidelines with our medical advisors, faculty, coaches, and board along with determining EMS practice & competition schedule options. We will define these specifics as soon as possible for each sport and team - stay tuned.

Until November 30, we will be continuing with Stage 3 guidelines for the teams that are currently meeting.

Fall Athlete Appreciation and Fundraiser

Place your soup order HEREOrders are due Sunday, Nov. 8 by 5 p.m. Pick up orders on Monday, Nov. 16 in the auditorium lot between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

We would like to thank the following business sponsors who made this fundraiser possible:

  • Soup and Bread sponsors: Valley Roots Team with Kline May Realty, LD&B Insurance and Financial Services
  • T-shirt sponsors: Cline Electric, Weaver’s Flooring America
  • Prize sponsors: DQ, Chick-fil-a
  • Wagons for Float Vote: Lee Good
  • Soup Containers: Dayton Tavern

On behalf of our faculty & staff, a deep spirit of gratitude for you, our EMS family!

Paul Leaman

Head of School

MS & HS Learning Space during Distance Learning

EMS can possibly create limited space for Grade 6-12 students with extenuating circumstances during our Distance Learning weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Please let me or your principal know by Friday, Nov. 13 if you will want learning space reserved for your student at EMS.

Update: Oct. 23, 2020

Dear EMS Parents, Students and Faculty,

COVID Exhaustion

This marathon certainly has its moments, but I am so grateful we are in this together!  Thank you for the strong support we as a school have felt even as rules for controlling the virus change and our school schedule has been modified.  Here is the link to VDH’s metrics for schools.

Both CDC and VDH have made updated health statements this week that are important for school communities.  CDC research is now considering a Close Contact as a person who has been within 6 feet of a COVID positive individual for a cumulative 15 minutes within a 24 hour period.  At EMS, we will continue emphasizing the importance of 6 foot distancing.

The VDH distributed two new updated resources for parents:

  1. A comprehensive booklet titled: When Should a Child Stay Home from School and/or Child Care?
  2. VDH Algorithm for Evaluating a Child with COVID-19 Symptoms or Exposure (1-page flowchart summary) 

In summary, the Rockingham/Harrisonburg area, having > 50 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days, remains a “Highest Risk” area.  VDH is now saying people living in “Highest Risk” areas are presumably exposed to the virus; therefore, for any COVID symptom showing up without a known alternative cause, VDH recommends:

  1. See your primary care physician (PCP) to rule out COVID-19. This will likely result in testing.
  2. If you do not check with your physician for unexplainable symptoms, then wait and follow a 10-day home isolation from symptom onset. No one should return to school:
    • Unless they are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medicine.
    • IF they are a Close Contact of a COVID positive person during the previous 14 days.

Note:  EMS prefers and accepts your PCP’s judgement on whether a student should return to school following a mysterious illness.

School Calendar Reminder:

EMES Schedule

Nov. 25 - 29:                Thanksgiving break

Nov. 30 - Dec. 11:        In Person Learning

Dec. 14 - Dec. 18:        Distance Learning

Dec. 21 - Jan. 3:          Christmas break

Jan 4 - Jan. 8:              Distance Learning

Jan. 11 onward:           In person classes

EMMS/EMHS Schedule

Nov. 25 - 29:                Thanksgiving break

Nov. 30 - Dec. 18:        Distance Learning

Dec. 21 - Jan. 3:          Christmas break

Jan 4 - Jan. 8:             Distance Learning

Jan. 11 onward:           In person classes

This difficult decision to alter our school calendar was made to allow families to self-isolate more than usual before and after planned trips to visit relatives who may be within a vulnerable population group. Additionally, this decision was made to support our faculty who do education best when being able to focus on one learning platform.  We were concerned that growing numbers of distance learners around the holidays would over-tax our teachers who are deeply dedicated to serving every student well. We will anticipate having all students back in person on January 11!

EMS leadership acknowledges the above calendar creates significant inconveniences for some of our families. If your family needs additional support for our Distance Learning plan, please communicate this with your student’s principal by October 30.

Athletic Plan Looking Ahead

EMS will continue with conditioning and skill development plans as is currently happening. Be on the lookout for a full update from Athletic Director, Andrew Gascho, early next week. 


Update: Sept. 11, 2020

Dear Parents and Students

I want you to know that we are working closely with VDH on the complex nature of doing school during days when our locality has experienced a significant uptick in COVID incidence. The bottom line is:

1. You are doing a great job with home screening and helping EMS continue plans for meeting in person. Since the start of school, we have had no confirmed COVID cases within our community. VDH is very affirming of our mitigation efforts within our school day.

2. We have had individuals identified as a Close Contact and these individuals are required to quarantine to prevent potential spread of the Coronavirus. EMS & VDH make sure Close Contact individuals have clear directions and follow our Return to School protocol.

3. Please keep doing your part in keeping our community as low risk as possible. The activities below are especially "risky" right now in our area, so please stay away from these activities or others of similar nature:

  • Large group gatherings where people are inside, not masked nor physically distanced, singing and/or vocal. For example: In-person church attendance, concert attendance, and public events; especially NOW, are not places to attend.

  • Athletic events as a fan or participant. For example: Travel athletics, competitions and indoor camps; especially NOW, are not places to attend.

  • Indoor restaurant eating, especially in crowded bar-like atmospheres or tightly served venues that cannot be socially distanced; especially NOW, are not places to attend.

Note: Please remember your commitment to practice a “low risk” lifestyle or choose distance learning. 

Also - Consider using the VDH promoted COVIDWISE App on your smartphone to learn whether you become a Close Contact.

Early Release Wednesdays @ 12:05:  EMS has decided to practice early release Wednesdays ALL YEAR.  We have found these partial days as critical for:

  • Detail cleaning of facilities.

  • Extra communication required of teachers for dual platform instruction.

  • Opportunities for parents/students to connect with teachers regarding unusual circumstances.

Return to School (Return to School.pdf):  Remember, 24-hours symptom-free are required after being home due to sickness.  If in question, stay home!

For Example: A student goes home after lunch @ 1 p.m. on Monday due to nausea.  By 6 p.m., they are feeling better.  Tuesday morning they also feel fine.  STAY HOME!  24-hours symptom-free is 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, so the soonest the student should return to school is Wednesday morning.

  • Please alert the school when a student is ready to return following an illness. We want to be aware of “bugs” going around. Be prepared to report the illness symptoms, whether your student visited a doctor, and whether they were tested for COVID.

Distance Learning options will continue for students; however, it is important for parents and students to know this requires extra effort and work for teachers, especially for unexpected students requesting distance learning.

  • Students who plan on distance learning should inform the school so all teachers are aware and prepared for this learning plan.

  • Students who miss school due to a short illness should make up their work in the traditional way by communicating with their teacher about missed work.

  • Students who need to quarantine or missing in person learning for an extended time should inform the school so their teachers can prepare and include them in distance learning.

Extra-Curricular Activities: 

As a School, we are focused on in-person learning. While we recognize the need and benefit for extracurricular activities, adding them extends our risk. Easing into these stages allows us to gradually increase our risk while evaluating the effectiveness of our mitigation strategies, community spread, and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

A major health risk for the school is the pressure placed on students to attend school even when not feeling well. With current COVID numbers in our general community, absolutely NO student should be at school when they are not feeling well. EMS will be phasing extra-curricular  opportunities based on season, meeting frequency, and ability to meet outdoors following best practices of distancing and masking within 10 feet.

Allowances right now - - Stage One.

Stage One - Low risk in season varsity sports & theatre

  • Varsity Cross Country and V Girls Tennis

    • Tennis location TBD since EMU courts are not an option

  • Theatre - in person practices, outside and physically distanced

  • Clubs - need to follow all school distancing and mask protocol, outside if possible

  • Intramurals

Shift to Stage Two: After the local (Harrisonburg) COVID incident trend has decreased on a 14-day average OR an incident rate under 10/100K for 7 consecutive days. 

Stage Two - Low risk in season middle school sports, in and out of season conditioning

  • Middle School Cross Country

  • Outdoor conditioning (no contact), applies to in season and out of season sports

    • This can be done once a week

Shift to Stage Three: After the local COVID incident trend has decreased on a 21-day average OR an incident rate is under 10/100K for 7 consecutive days. 

Stage Three - Moderate - high risk sports

  • Outdoor

    • Varsity Boys Soccer

    • Middle School Boys Soccer

  • Indoor (Gym capacity limit to 12 athletes)

    • Varsity Volleyball

    • JV Volleyball

    • Middle School Volleyball

    • Girls Basketball

    • Boys Basketball

Open Gym Protocol

I am so grateful for the excellent learning taking place and proud of our faculty, students, and families for the hard work and vigilance keeping one another safe. You are the difference!


Paul Leaman

Head of School

Update: August 21, 2020

Head of School Update #7

Here we go on this new ride for school. We have put an extreme amount of intentional design and thought into opening, and I am extraordinarily confident in the preparedness of our faculty & staff for this new year. We are eager to begin. Even so, it will be a new experience for all of us and we are looking at these initial two weeks as time to practice, try out, and discover what strategies might work best.  Come with an open-mind and patience as we learn together!

This year, EMS is welcoming 80 new plus 273 returning students for a total of 353 on Tuesday, August 25th for classes beginning at 8:30 a.m.

A safe & COVID-free environment is our top priority. With young people more commonly asymptomatic, PLEASE choose to use distance learning opportunities if your student has knowingly been around anyone who is COVID positive or symptomatic.

Please Remember

  • First week of classes:  Aug. 25-27, everyday is a full day from 8:30 - 3:00, including Weds.
  • Unsure if you are feeling well?  Stay Home and participate through Distance Learning until you are certain you are well! Daily Home Health Screening & other COVID-related information is easily found on our website (Quicklinks->Parent Portal or Homepage->Announcements). Direct Link to COVID webpage
  • Student schedules will be available at the above entrance points as needed.
  • Mask up! The EMS campus safety protocol requires a mask at all times indoors (unless alone in a room) and outdoors if within 6 feet of another.
    • Arrivals & Departures: Be courteous and put/keep your mask on as you enter and exit buildings and at least while you are on school sidewalks and/or expect to encounter others.
  • Synchronous meeting times in the event we need to go online.  Grades 6-12 students will have a set time for synchronously meeting with each of their classes.
    • Block One: 8:30 - 9:30
    • Block Two: 10:00 - 11:00
    • Block Three: 12:30 - 1:30
    • Block Four: 2:00 - 3:00

CHANGE:  Drop off Plan to assist with traffic flow on Parkwood Drive. Drop off students between 8:00 - 8:30

  • EMES (Gym parking lot with drop-off at the EMS Bridge)
  • EMMS (Auditorium Entrance)
  • EMHS (Front Office Entrance
    • Student drivers (HS only) should park in the Dining Hall parking lot and enter at the Front Entrance.
    • Student drivers (w/ MS riders) should park in the Auditorium parking lot and enter through the Auditorium entrance.
  • After 8:30, all drop-off locations are the front office entrances
  • Pick up students between 3:00 - 3:15 at the same location as you dropped off!
    • NOTE:  ALL northbound traffic on Virginia Ave. (Rt. 42) should exit west (toward EMU) to access Rt. 42 by way of Mt. Clinton Pike, Birch Drive, or Harmony Drive.

Distance Learners and Opening Day

  • Your teachers have been, or will be, in communication with you regarding specific directions and expectations for your learning plan. Please check your EMS email.
  • Daily School Announcements & Information will be posted for you within your Unified Classroom page in PowerSchool under "School Bulletin.”

I am excited to be on this learning journey with you!  Pray and lay aside any beginning of the year anxiety knowing we are in this together and will be dedicated to supporting one another. Our best next step is living into each day, and we can do this best by staying healthy, following our safety guidelines, and being open to new ways and methods of learning.  I am so grateful you and your family have chosen to be part of the Flame family.  Together, we are #FlamesStrong!

With anticipation!

Paul Leaman

Update: August 14, 2020

Opening School with Confidence

Thank you for completing the 3 Tasks from Update #5.  EMS families are an awesome community dedicated to look out for one another!

  • 100% of EMS families commit to following the CDC recommended Daily Home Screening for Students BEFORE leaving for school every day!
  • 100% commit to keep students home if they are knowingly sick or presenting symptoms of COVID-19 and to report this illness to the school!
  • 100% of families attending in person agree to the Assumption of the Risk and Waiver of Liability
  • Parents who reported their student had close contact with or a COVID-19 diagnosis within the last 30 days AND who have reported any COVID-19 symptom within the last 14 days will be contacted to ensure an adequate waiting period before these students return to school. The reported percentage of our school population was 1.4% and 1.7% respectively.
  • 94% of EMS students plan to participate in person for the opening two weeks.

To assist faculty in refining instructional practices during the first two weeks, we kindly request you to follow the In Person or Distance Learning format you have selected. We are working to ensure that every student feels part of every class regardless of your choice. Working with attendance consistency will really help us learn the best ways to service all students. IF you find your choice unbearable, please communicate with your principal so we can plan around unexpected changes.  CERTAINLY - if your student is sick - stay home and join in via Distance Learning options if they are feeling up to it. 

  • In Person - I am really anticipating seeing students again on Aug. 25 between 8 - 8:30.
  • Distance Learning - Teachers will be initiating contact with you. Students and parents should pay close attention to school emails. Please be patient as teachers have extra preparations and trust them to reach out to you.

Together, we are clearly in this essential work of keeping one another safe to the best of our ability while continuing the essential work of quality education! 

First Week Notes

  • Lunch:  K-5 pack; Grades 6-12 purchase entree or pack (no salads the 1st week).
  • Transportation: Plan on personal transportation. We will work on bus routes ASAP to assist with your arrival & return convenience.
  • Computers: High school students are highly encouraged to bring their own device to school for Day 1 if at all possible. Students using school issued Chromebooks will have these assigned ASAP. This will be a process requiring your patience.  If your student will be needing a school-owned Chromebook and have not yet completed the Technology Needs Survey, please do so ASAP.
  • Chapel: Pre-recorded and observed from classrooms with teachers.

Personnel Changes and Additions

Faculty & staff preparations begin in earnest this coming week, Aug. 17 - 21. We anticipate welcoming the following new faculty members to our team:

  • Leah Huyard: A 2017 EMS graduate, will be working as a Teacher-in-Training with Mr. Larry Martin in 6th Grade. Ms. Huyard will be teaching the Language Arts & Social Studies 6 courses. She has taken a gap year prior to her senior college year and is enthused to put her history & English studies and skills into practice this year with 6th Grade.
  • Merridy Gnagey: Teacher Assistant/Teacher in Grade 4 as Ms. Gibbs needs to be home due to a vulnerable health situation in her home. Ms. Gnagey brings a master’s degree and 7 years of direct classroom instruction. She is prepared to be the Grade 4 teacher as long as needed. She is an EMS parent.
  • Mark Gornto: English 7 & 8 and Theatre Coordinator. Mr. Gornto brings a master’s degree, 18 years of teaching experience coming most recently from Moorestown Friends School outside of Philadelphia. He brings additional skills in filmmaking. He is an EMS parent.
  • Gwen Lantz: Library Assistant to Ms. Julianne Ross so we can have our library fully open all day. Ms. Lantz brings a Master’s in Library Science and has volunteered in the library in previous years. It is good having her available for regular hours and instructional support this year.
  • Thomas Mitch: Science 7 & 8, Anatomy & Physiology, Environmental Science. Mr. Mitch was a pre-medicine undergraduate and is finishing up his Master’s degree specializing in teaching middle school science. He comes with many years of soccer player and coach instructional experience as well. Mr. Mitch is an EMS parent.
  • Karen Suderman: English for International Students. Ms. Suderman will begin the year teaching online until our international students can travel to the U.S. She will be part-time at EMS and part-time as the Director of EMU’s Intensive English Program. Ms. Suderman has extensive international experience, a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s in Library Science.
  • Michelle Weaver: Teacher Assistant in the Spanish classroom for Ms. Valeria Eshleman-Robles who will be teaching virtually using video projection due to a vulnerable health situation in her home. Ms. Weaver will be live in the classroom. She knows our school well as a regular substitute teacher in past years and as an EMS parent.
  • Band Teacher: Mr. Buchanan has recently bid farewell with gratitude for 17 years of teaching at EMS. We are working diligently to fill this position and welcome any leads you may have.
  • Substitute Teachers:  We imagine a need for substitute teachers this year. Please contact Christine Fairfield in our Front Office (540)236-6000 if you have personal interest or leads of others who might want to support EMS as a substitute teacher.


Update: August 5, 2020

Forms referenced in the August 5 parent email.

At this time, EMS will follow “Every Student, Every Day” for our reopening school plan beginning on Tuesday, August 25. 

This decision comes after consultation with EMS medical advisors, faculty, parents, the EMS Board of Directors, and the Virginia Department of Health. Pray the COVID incident rates remain low and the burden in our area manageable so this plan holds firm.

Three Task Requirements for EMS Families:  Due by Monday, August 10.

  1. Read the Assumption of Risk and Waiver of Liability (linked & attached) and electronically sign using the Google Form linked from this document.
  2. Answer the Health Safety Commitment questions using the Google Form linked from the Assumption of Risk document (#1).
  3. Report your child(ren’s) EMS Attendance Plan from Aug. 25 - Sept. 4 using the Google Form linked from the Assumption of Risk document (#1).

Your prompt response will help us be best prepared and confident in our room arrangements. We also encourage your family to practice wearing masks and following the required Daily Home Screening for Students with Return-to-School Policies  (attached). Print and have this document posted at a convenient location for your daily referral.

While EMS plans to open in person, we understand this may not be the best option for every student and family!  Faculty are planning to work with students who choose distance learning the best we know how. We are committed to helping each student reach their potential through quality value-based education whether you are in person or at home. 


EMS will follow the guidance of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) for school operational shifts between in-person, hybrid (~50% on campus at a time), and distance learning. The VDH is following local, regional, and state data points that measure/monitor COVID case frequency; percent positivity in testing; localized outbreaks; healthcare worker incidence; emergency department visits; ICU hospitalizations; hospital capacities; and PPE availability. This data is compiled to give each locality and region a Burden rating (Low - High) and a Trend rating (Decreasing - Steady - Increasing).  This data along with EMS’s incidence situations will be used to determine the school’s real-time operational plan (“real-time”, like a snow day, could change within short notice but EMS will do all we can to accommodate our family needs).

We are not seeking to be cavalier in our decision for every student, every day. However, when public schools are going online only, it raises the question. The VDH believes our advantages of a smaller community, use of mostly private transportation, conscientious families for home health screening, and mitigation plans that meet or exceed state requirements for schools allows for operating in person. In theory, the school plan is safe; however, risk grows as more people mix. In full disclosure, while 6-foot physical distancing in classrooms is our metric, there will be many times during the day when we imagine students passing within six feet of one another. It is important to acknowledge the increased risk for in person schooling.

We are demanding EMS family vigilance in following CDC recommended best practices. We respect and will honor all families choosing distance learning as their best option as this also keeps our buildings less populated and safer for those who need to be present. Students choosing distance learning are eligible for all school services, including extracurricular activities offered.

When a COVID incident occurs that impacts the school community, parents will receive an emailed letter defining whether or not their child was known to have any exposure. This same email will inform parents and students of any changes to EMS’s real-time operational plan.

Allowable Phase III Program Offerings:

  • K-12 Fall 2020:  “Every Student, Every Day” is the operational plan for opening classes on Aug. 25, 2020. Classrooms will be set up for 6 physical distancing between student tables/desks. Face masks are required indoors at all times unless you are in a room by yourself.  Face masks/coverings are required outdoors unless you are physically distanced by 6’ (or 10’ if singing or doing cardiovascular activity that requires extra breathing). Incidental contact (less than 6 feet and fewer than 10 minutes) is considered an acceptable allowance to physical distancing.
    • Acceptable Face Coverings are: Well fitted masks that seal both the nose and mouth. All cloth face coverings must be a minimum of two layers.
    • NOT Acceptable Face Coverings: Masks with an exhaust valve; bandanas, face shields without a mask, masks without a good seal leaving an open/unfiltered nose.
  • Fall Interscholastic Sports: Only developmental practices are permitted for contact sports until Phase III guidelines allow competition.  Cross Country & Tennis may be able schedule friendly-type experiences. EMS hopes to create intramural opportunities and/or individual-based competitions for student enjoyment. The reasons for no contact sports have to do with close proximity and exchange of heavy breathing during “head to head” play.  Travel for teams in buses over significant distances was also behind league cancelation of interscholastic sports. 
  • School Transportation:  Requires 6’ distancing except for between family members. All passengers and drivers will wear face coverings. KN95 masks are provided for drivers.

(Additional extensive content was shared with parents via an August 5 email)