A Closer Look

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Academy seniors Sean Reagan and Dorian Lacey-Garita take their turns signing a steel beam

An interesting and somewhat under-the-radar event happened last month that bears a closer look. The first step in a cool sequence of events was the setting out of two large steel beams that were painted white on one side. The white surface was meant as a canvas to collect the signatures of each senior. One by one, each member of Columbus Academy’s Class of 2016 came outside to sign his or her name on the support beam designated for the renovation of Morris Hall.

Just before Thanksgiving break, the seniors were called outside again. This time, they were instructed to put on hardhats and were allowed access to the construction area behind Morris Hall, where they watched the two beams being raised and placed into such a position that the sides with the signatures will remain exposed for all to see within the new addition.

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The Class of 2016 celebrates the signed beams being raised into place during the Morris Hall renovation

“Why did only the senior class receive this honor?” some may ask. And it’s a fair question. The answer is that the school’s administration is making a concerted effort to provide the Class of 2016 with some special events and privileges throughout the school year in order to reward them for being the only grade within the school that will not directly benefit from the current construction. Their names, however, will always be visible inside a building that is being transformed into a true centerpoint of our campus.

More surprises are in store for them, so stay tuned!

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Amish crew chief Lester Eicher

What makes this event more interesting is the all-Amish crew that placed the beams and is, in fact, doing most of the steel work on our new structures. To be sure, it’s rare within the Amish community – universally known for their outstanding woodwork – to be handling steel erection.
“We just do structural steel,” said Lester Eicher, who runs the crew from Cornerstone Erectors out of Mount Vernon, Ohio. “We’ve got 23 employees, and we usually bring out 6-8 guys to this site.”

According to Lester, they’ve been working on our campus since September and will continue to visit until the last building addition (the north side of the Middle School) is ready for steel structures sometime in January. But before you go looking for a horse and buggy parked in the bus circle, you should know that Lester and his crew arrive by car with a hired driver. They save the horse and buggy for home, where they also make all of their own clothes, even the materials they wear on construction sites.

Three of Lester’s four sons (he also has three daughters) work on his crew and have been to Academy’s campus. His youngest, Joseph, is 19 years old and helped raise the senior beams. In their community of about 90 families, they support their own schools, which are five separate buildings housing grades 1-8 and located geographically so that almost all of the children can walk to school. After completing eighth grade, children start working on the farm and can start on-site training with crews like Lester’s once they’re 16.

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Members of the Cornerstone Erectors crew doing our structural steel work

Asked if his son probably feels like his education and upbringing were different than the Academy students he sees while on campus, Lester chuckled and said, “Yes, it’s quite different.”

Lester went to public school when he was growing up but his children all went to Amish schools. “A lot of people say we don’t pay taxes, but we do,” he said while laughing. “We pay (public) school taxes and we’ve got our own schools now, which we support ourselves.”

In that regard – by valuing a unique educational experience for children – maybe his family is not that different from an Academy family after all.


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