The elementary school was founded in 1997 with two first grade classes. A grade a year was added with 2 or 3 classrooms for each grade. In 2013-14 there are 1100 students enrolled in the elementary school (grades 1-8) with nearly 40 students per class.
When the elementary school began, its classrooms were located temporarily in other buildings on the MEEI campus. In September 2004 the new elementary school building opened, but the school has quickly outgrown even this space.
Classes for 7th and 8th graders are now held in the old high school building on the Mar Elias campus. Even with expanded enrollment and space, more students continue to apply to this highly-regarded school. The Principal of Mariam Bawardi Elementary School, Ms. Johaina Mattar, says that the hardest part of her job is saying no to still more families whose children are on the waiting list.
Students in the elementary school come from many villages in a 30-mile radius of Ibillin. They come to school by bus or their parents drive them in their cars. The students and teachers include Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Jews. Special exchange programs throughout the year bring Mar Elias students together with Jewish students from nearby schools, to help achieve the goal of building friendships and understanding across all religious lines.
Mariam Bawardi students work and play together in a safe environment where they learn to appreciate and respect each other and their different religious traditions. The students are learning to live together in peace and to become peacemakers. They are trying to put into practice what Jesus taught in the beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
In 2006 the first class of eighth graders graduated from Mar Elias Elementary School in a great celebration involving the entire community. The school is truly a beacon of hope on the Mountain of Light.
Scholarship assistance is always needed for students whose families are unemployed or underemployed in these difficult economic times. $680 provides a year’s tuition for one student, and $50 gives one family from beyond Ibillin a transportation subsidy to help with bus fees. Donate now!