Blue Mountain Adventist Elementary reborn after tornado

A Grand Opening and dedication was held at Blue Mountain Adventist Elementary School on Aug. 6. The newly built school replaces the one destroyed by a tornado two years ago.
A Grand Opening and dedication was held at Blue Mountain Adventist Elementary School on Aug. 6. The newly built school replaces the one destroyed by a tornado two years ago. Lisa Mitchell - Digital First Media
Ribbon cutting during the Grand Opening and dedication at Blue Mountain Adventist Elementary School on Aug. 6. The newly built school replaces the one destroyed by a tornado two years ago.
Ribbon cutting during the Grand Opening and dedication at Blue Mountain Adventist Elementary School on Aug. 6. The newly built school replaces the one destroyed by a tornado two years ago. Lisa Mitchell - Digital First Media

A Grand Opening on Aug. 6 dedicated the newly built Blue Mountain Seventh-day Adventist Elementary in Tilden Township that replaces the one destroyed by a tornado two years ago. The ceremony included a flag-raising, Dedication Ceremony and tours of the new school.

“On July 9, 2015, a tornado struck. Part of the roof was on that mulberry tree over there, part of it was in the soybean field down there, parts of it in the trees. There were pieces of wall standing here and there and all manner of junk over five acres,” said Dr. Merle Whitney, Chairman of the Board, Blue Mountain Seventh-day Adventist School, welcoming the group gathered at Grand Opening. “Here we are two years later after challenges, set backs, decisions, pauses and amazing progress, excitement and eventually rapid completion.”

“Blue Mountain Elementary is more than a building; it’s a community,” said Dr. Jeff Bovee, superintendent and vice president of the Pennsylvania Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “This community has gone through a process over the last couple of years, making some very important decisions.”

That community, he said, includes the churches, school board, children, parents, press, construction company, Tilden Township, insurance company, Seventh-day Adventist educational system, Columbia Union Education System and more.

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“It’s a very broad group of stakeholders that make this school possible. I’m just very happy that school will once again be able to resume right here. I’m also very thankful for each person who gave countless hours to help make this a reality,” said Bovee.

Tilden Township Supervisor Gene Schappell said Sunday was a beautiful day to hold a dedication ceremony for the new school.

“It’s a beautiful facility and it’s a great asset to the Blue Mountain Academy and to the Tilden Township community and to the people who are going to be educated in this community,” said Schappell. “We thank you for being part of our family in the community.”

Diana Engen from Blue Mountain Academy said the Academy enjoyed sharing their space with Blue Mountain Elementary while the new school was being built over the past two years. She shared her family’s experience when the tornado struck. Her family lives down the hill from the school. They were home watching “The Sound of Music,” singing along to the movie when the power went out. They looked out the window to see their bird feeders blowing horizontally at a 90 degree angle in the wind. While headed to the basement, they saw the tornado.

“That tornado was going right through this parking lot (at BME),” said Engen. “I could see the stuff spinning in it.”

They immediately called 9-1-1 and headed to BME, searching for former Principal Rachel Wardecke, who had been inside the building at the time and survived.

“Lots of memories made that day,” said Engen. “This is a great time for you to have a beautiful new facility and start making some new memories.”/

Ron Christman, treasurer of the Pa. Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church, thanked the community for maximizing their greatest asset, their children.

“You as a community have made it your mission, your purpose, you’ve invested your time and effort,” said Christman.

Eric Smith, project manager from Conewago Enterprises Inc., the construction company who designed and constructed the new school.

“I don’t think Blue Mountain Elementary could ask for a better blessing in disguise, this new energy efficient building that meets all of today’s high standards. We designed and built the building to minimize maintenance,” said Smith. “With this sustainable building, the staff at Blue Mountain Elementary can focus on what really matters most, putting their time, resources, effort and attention towards their children.”

The new school features precast concrete walls that are insulated with a truss roof instead of a flat roof. The energy efficient building features LED lights with motion sensors. The rubber sports floor in the gym and the polished concrete floors in the halls and multi-grade classrooms are anticipated to make cleaning easier.

The Grand Opening included a dedication ceremony, prayers, music performed by Blue Mountain Academy students and alumni, raising of the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, ribbon cutting and tours of the new school.

Jacqueline Messenger, Associate Director for Secondary Education at Columbia Union Education System, said, “It’s a thrilling event to open a new school but back in July 2015, you could have been discouraged and said we’re done... But you let God lead you. You were able to pull together and rebuild. This a beautiful testament to God and what he is going to do in the lives of the children that are going to be in this school this year and in many years to come... These teachers have made a difference in those children’s lives. I pray that you will have a fabulous year.”

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.