By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 2/14/19
HARRISONBURG — Renovations are underway to prepare Eastern Mennonite School’s new building to bring the school’s elementary classes onto its campus permanently.
The city granted the school a building permit for the renovations on Feb. 6.
Eastern Mennonite School, 801 Parkwood Drive, is a religious elementary, middle and high school in the Anabaptist-Mennonite traditions with 341 students.
The project to finish the elementary school is estimated to cost $4.5 million, said Michael Stoltzfus, EMS director of business affairs.
Renovations on the building are to be carried out by the Gaines Group and Harman Construction at a cost of $2.575 million, according to the building permit.
The money that is not included in the costs of the renovation will be spent on projects that are not stated in the building permit, such as asbestos abatement, demolition and site work, Stoltzfus said.
Previous estimates of $6 million included projects slated for later phases of campus improvements, including an outdoor gathering space, site work and a covered bridge over a ditch on the campus, he said.
Eastern Mennonite School will hold off on these projects until more funding is secured, Stoltzfus said.
In 2016, the school purchased the adjacent property from Menno-Media, a print and media company that serves the Mennonite Church. Menno-media moved out of the building and into the Wharton Aldhizer & Weaver building in Harrisonburg in November 2017, said Melody Davis, managing editor of Menno-Media.
Eastern Mennonite School started its elementary program in fall 2004, and was last located at 314 Cornerstone Lane, said Andrea Wenger, the director of advancement for Eastern Mennonite School. This school year, the elementary school has been combined with the middle and high school, Wenger said.
“It’s been a really great opportunity for interaction between generations,” she said. Eastern Mennonite School is planning to open the elementary building next fall. “By move-in, the classrooms would be ready, and on the west side, we’re putting in a welcoming entrance, offices, and, of course, bringing everything up to code,” Wenger said. The building will have nine classrooms for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, Stoltzfus said. The non-load-bearing walls were removed so the building could be laid out to best serve the school’s needs, he said.
Art and music classrooms will be in the basement, with three classrooms on the main level and four on the upper level, Stoltzfus said.
Stair towers will be built on the east side of the building, which will increase its footprint, and the towers also will have an elevator for accessibility, he said.
Another addition to the footprint of the building is where the former studios of Menno-Media were, and an office annex is planned, he said.
Demolition work has already been done on the building, Stoltzfus said.
Renovations in the elementary school will include a glass wall to the mechanical room so that students can understand how buildings work, said Charles Hendricks of the Gaines Group, who is the architect for the project. HVAC equipment and the technology rack for the building will be in the mechanical room. The space also will be prepared for a “greener” future after the renovations are complete. “We made it as energy-efficient as we could, Hendricks said. “It’s set up to be in the future, hopefully, a zero-energy space.”
The design also increased the number of windows in the building, to forge a visual connection with the outside, Hendricks said. “We saved a whole building and gave it a new life, once this renovation is done it should last another 100 years,” he said.