The Amish have for centuries only embraced education through the eighth grade. That is now slowly changing. A new school is being opened which will offer education through grade twelve for some Amish students; the name of the school is Beacon Hill Community School. A community school is the same as a state charter school. The initial idea for the school and the initial steps of action were taken by an advisory committee who later appointed the new school board. The school board is now making the decisions to move the school forward. The school will be located just south of Mt. Eaton, Ohio in Wayne County at a facility called “The Pier” which was built in 2001. The Pier is owned and operated by a non-profit organization called Lighthouse of Hope. The facility and its programs have been a great blessing to the local Amish and non-Amish population. Lighthouse of Hope and The Pier were founded by a group of people that shared the vision for a community center in the Mt. Eaton area.

For this article, I talked with Paul Mullet, Rhoda Mast, and David Fischer. Paul is the operations director for Lighthouse of Hope, which includes The Pier. Lighthouse of Hope will lease the facilities at The Pier to the new school. Paul has been working full-time in this capacity since 2008. Rhoda is the principal at the Mt. Eaton elementary school, on the Beacon Hill Advisory Committee, and also the chairperson of Lighthouse of Hope. David is currently the curriculum director and head of special services at Southeast Local schools.

The Pier has a gymnasium, a large meeting/dining room with an adjacent kitchen, restrooms, and offices. Outside there is a large parking lot and a ball field. Uses for this facility include sports activities including basketball leagues and volleyball, family reunions, birthday parties, banquets, seminars, youth rallies, graduation parties, etc.

The new community school will not interfere with any of the existing programs and events. The school is a state chartered school and will receive funds from the state for a 3 year period. However, no local tax dollars will be used to start or operate the school. After the initial 3 years of state funding the goal is for the school to be self sustaining with the state dollars per pupil. The school will have students from grade 7 through 12. The seventh and eighth grades will be a more traditional elementary school but will also have vocational and home economics classes. The first project for the vocational shop class will be to build a storage barn on the property that will house their equipment. The home economics, consumer science, class will make good use of the on-site kitchen to learn to prepare foods. The high school will be an e-learning, internet based program. The school is open to anyone living in the tri-county area of Wayne, Holmes, and Ashland counties. It is open to both Amish and non-Amish students. Students in high school will be able to proceed at their own pace which means they would be able to graduate and receive a high school diploma at age 16 if they work hard and meet the requirements. In addition, eighth grade students will be eligible to take some high school courses.

At this point the advisory committee has appointed a 5-member board of directors for the school. The new school board consists of both Amish and non-Amish members. The school board members are: Mark Weaver, Patti Arnold, Marvin Yoder, Andrew Yoder and Sam Troyer. Although Beacon Hill will operate independently of the local public schools, some functions will be fulfilled by the Southeast Local school district. Beacon Hill will pay for all services it receives from the local school district, via contracted agreements, since no local monies will be used to support the community school. The school is planning to open this fall and currently has 22 students enrolled for seventh grade, 14 for the eighth grade, and about a dozen in the high school e-learning program. The school will be able to have a maximum of around 75 students. All faculty will be state certified. David Fischer will be the first principal and Brad Herman, the lead teacher.

For information about Beacon Hill Community School, or to enroll, contact the Southeast Local board office at 330-698-3001.