Many hands make light work at Olney

BARNESVILLE David Penewit makes his living hauling freight across the country, just as he has for the past 38 years. But when he came to Olney Friends School in Barnesville this week, he experienced a first.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before, not in the trucking industry,” Penewit said regarding the large number of people who turned out to help unload his cargo of enormous styrofoam blocks. “Nobody ever does anything but one or two people.”

Penewit, a driver for BESL Transfer Co., could hardly believe his eyes when he saw 20-30 folks waiting to meet him on each of his four visits to the school.

“It’s amazing what people can do if they want to,” he added, noting one load he delivered to Olney was completely removed from his truck in less than 20 minutes. “The fastest I ever had my truck unloaded was 12 minutes, but that was guys who do it every day. You all used nothing but manpower. You all are fantastic people.”

Those lending a helping hand included employees of Dave Cook Contracting and Cook himself, Olney kitchen staff, farm staff, teachers, recent graduates, maintenance workers, administrators, support staff, friends of the school and even a member of the school’s Board of Trustees. All turned out to help unload multiple tractor-trailer loads of foam blocks being used in the renovation of the school’s new Stillwater Science Center. The blocks range in size from 2 x 4 x 4 feet to 2 x 4 x 8 feet.

It took some time for these folks to put the first load of foam in its proper place; it was mistakenly delivered to the nearby Barnesville High School. To solve the problem, several pickup trucks, farm tractors and trailers were put in service to haul the blocks along Shamrock Drive to the Olney site.

The second full semi load was delivered to the correct place, and it took those on hand just 22 minutes to unload the entire truck. They did an even better job with the third load, which required just 18 minutes of unloading time.

“It was nice to see all the staff there helping out and enthusiastic about the project,” said Olney Administrative Assistant Sue Grimes.

Everyone at the school is engaged in the process of preparing the building the former Barnesville Independent Elementary School, which was given to Olney last fall by Stillwater Monthly Meeting after the elementary school closed. Two exterior walls were excavated to allow for waterproofing of the foundation, and the resulting void will be partially filled with the construction-grade foam blocks to reduce the exterior load on those walls and to help ensure the building will have a long and productive life.

In addition to that work, the lower level floor has been trenched to make way for plumbing and gas lines to supply the school’s new biology and chemistry labs. New furniture and state-of-the-art science fixtures and equipment are being installed in those rooms, and the entire interior is receiving a fresh coat of paint.

But Olney’s plans to offer new and exciting classes for its students involve much more than providing additional space in a newly renovated facility. With an expanded focus on STEM science, technology, engineering and math Olney will provide students opportunities that they would find in no other place.

Olney Friends School was founded in 1837 at Mount Pleasant, Ohio, by the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. Olney operated there under the name “Mt. Pleasant Boarding School” until 1876, when it moved to its present location in Barnesville. For decades, the school served the children of local Quaker families, but today it welcomes students of all faiths and ethnicities from across the region and around the world.

Today Olney is governed by an independent Board of Trustees, consisting of alumni and other supporters of the school. Still, Olney draws on its Quaker roots as it prepares young men and women to become analytical, ethical people with the potential to be future leaders of our changing world.

One of the Quaker values that is evident everywhere at Olney is a commitment to stewardship of the land. The school operates a 350-acre farm that grows crops and raises livestock that help to feed students and staff throughout the year. That farm also serves as a living laboratory where students can learn about organic gardening, animal reproduction and much more.

Ohio’s 2009 Conservation Teacher of the Year, Leonard Guindon, also leads his students on frequent treks to Captina Creek, where they monitor water quality and the rare hellbender salamanders that inhabit that stream. Lessons about protecting watersheds and conserving electricity already are common in various classes at the school.

Themes of conservation, innovation and social responsibility remain an integral part of the entire curriculum as teachers and administrators set plans for new courses to be offered in 2014-15, including Agri-science and Introduction to Engineering.

Olney currently is working with PCS Construction Management Services firm to complete the renovation. PCS is working with architects, engineers and subcontractors to plan and complete the needed work with a goal of preparing the building for classes to begin Aug. 25.

“They are great people, and PCS is thrilled to be on the Olney team for this very successful project,” said Rick Milhoan, a senior vice president and managing partner for PCS.

School personnel and community members who have helped with the foam-moving effort include: Head of School Charlie Szumilas, Board Co-Clerk Ernest Hartley, Dave Cook, Gary Shafer, Dale Johnson, Bill Davis, Nick and Roger Reynolds, Anne Marie Taber, Francis Peet, Caroline Guindon, Jenny Lowry, Tim Skinner, Ryan Bolyard, Graham Hart, Dan Adams, Dan Coppock, Don Guindon, Leonard Guindon, John Rockwell, Rich Sidwell, Sandy Sterrett, Tina Neiswonger, Jennifer Compston-Strough, Sue Grimes, Shelley Rockwell, Joel Rockwell, Eric Simmons, Bob Rockwell, Steve Carvin and a few employees of Barnesville Exempted Village Schools.