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Spencerville Members Get First Look at Their LEED-Certified School

Story by Barbara Carreno; Photos by Kelly Coe
Published 8/3/2011

Ribbon cutting ceremony.

This past Sunday afternoon in Silver Spring, Md., more than 500 of Chesapeake Conference’s Spencerville church members and friends came together for their first look at the new Spencerville Adventist Academy on Route 198, just outside Burtonsville. Having just been awarded its occupancy permit three days before, the church family wanted to take this time to praise God for the realization of a dream a decade and a half in the making.

Completed in 19 months, the 100,000-square-foot building occupies 31 acres of land less than a mile from the old school. Groundbreaking took place in November 2009 after 14 years of planning, 10 years of which were required to obtain the necessary state and county permits. With only grading for a ball field and the storm-water management pond remaining, the school will open for students on August 22. More than 350 students are expected this school year, with room for many more.

Participants in the opening ceremony included Jerry Lutz, Spencerville church’s senior pastor; Merle Poirier, building committee chair; Brian Kittleson, principal; Carole Smith, EdD, Chesapeake Conference’s superintendant of Schools; Bob Nitz, general contractor; and his on-site project manager, son, Dwayne Nitz.

“That we are now gathered here in front of this beautiful new facility is irrefutable evidence that by Divine Providence, patience, hard work and sacrifice, dreams really can come true!” Lutz ecstatically declared. “We are truly blessed and must therefore return to God the praise and thanksgiving that He so very much deserves. For without His leading and guidance, this would likely be an empty field where we are now standing. But instead, look at what our Lord God has made possible!”

Building committee members then unveiled the school’s engraved cornerstone, which had the inscription of a verse from Isaiah 2:3: “He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths” (NIV). After the ribbon cutting, each attendee received a commemorative pin of the event and went on a self-guided tour.

The old building had been in use since the school’s founding in 1943, with one teacher and six students. Spencerville church’s last surviving charter member, Christine Erickson, who attended the opening of the school in 1943, was present for this school’s opening to the delight of the other attendees.

Built to house 400 pre-kindergarten-12th grade students (150 academy and 250 elementary), the new school has expandable interior space that can accommodate 150 more, a capacity that can serve nearly a hundredfold more students than the original student body.

The old school especially needed separation between the academy and elementary students, more storage and more bathrooms. Thus the new, two-story building, with 22 rest rooms, was cleverly designed to house the academy facilities on the east side and the pre-school, elementary and middle school facilities on the west, with common areas like the library and a fully-enclosed courtyard in the center. The academy and elementary sides each have their own entrances. An 8,000-square-foot basement provides storage.

Administrative offices span the front of the building. Across the rear are the music rooms, a dividable multipurpose room for elementary and middle school physical education and lunchroom that seats 500, a kitchen specifically designed for vegetarian cooking, a spacious gymnasium with locker rooms and laundry and an auditorium with its own entrance, which seats 345.

A unique feature of the school is a stage shared by the auditorium and multi-purpose room, which separates the two spaces and can be opened and closed to either room by adjusting the front and rear curtains and a moveable wall. The auditorium has sloping aisles with low-volt strip lights and wheelchair offsets throughout the room. Auditorium seats also have tablet arms for taking notes.

Said Steven Blondo (’09), a Spencerville Adventist Academy alumnus who toured the new school: “It is great that we have a new building for current and future students to learn in. As someone who went to public schools up until high school, it is exciting to see a building that I consider to be equal to or beyond a level of quality that I experienced. The new facilities such as the gym, auditorium and state-of-the-art kitchen are added perks to an already outstanding institution. The new school is really going to improve the learning experience tremendously.”

The building is LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), meaning it is a “green” building with environmental concerns taken into account from design and construction through operation and maintenance. “Green” features include a high-quality heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system that can be operated off-site via computer; a “cool” roof, high-performance glazing on the windows, motion-detecting light switches and low-flow toilets. Building materials include a high level of recycled content. The building is on target to be a silver-award winning LEED institution. In addition, the school is equipped with security cameras and buzz-in exterior doors and activity in all rooms except restrooms is viewable from the hall.

“Rare now is a full PK-12 grade academy in the North American Division with a single-church constituency, like this one,” said Lutz.

Poirier added, “This building stands as a testimony to the vision of a congregation that has a full commitment to Adventist education. Their sacrifice has allowed the completion of this $22-million project dedicated to sharing Christ with its students and the surrounding community with only a $5 million mortgage remaining. Truly, God has blessed us on this journey.”

There are many practical reasons why the Spencerville church built this new school, but for Poirier who cited Miriam Tymeson, a long-time Columbia Union educator during the opening: “A school must not be evaluated by bricks and mortar … [or] its expensive modern fixtures. ... A school is to be judged by what happens to the children after they leave it.” Poirier summed up by saying, “That, my friends, is why we did this—not to have more space, better bathrooms or more storage, but to educate students for eternity.”

Read more about the school’s 2009 ground breaking.