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New Eastern Orthodox private school in Nõmme ready in the nick of time

The Püha Johannese school's main building as it appeared on Tuesday, August 30 2022, just two days before the first day of the new school year.
The Püha Johannese school's main building as it appeared on Tuesday, August 30 2022, just two days before the first day of the new school year. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

A private, single-faith school's opening just in time for the new academic year starting Thursday is little short of a miracle, its director said.

Liivika Simmul, director of the Püha Johannese kool (St. John's school) in the Nõmme district of Tallinn told ERR Tuesday that: "Forty-eight hours is a very long time in the current situation," in reference to the fact that, at the time of speaking, a permit for use (kasutusluba) had still not been issued.

"Construction work has gone over time, but we will still start on September 1 with a celebration and gratitude," she went on.

The school has been functioning since 2013 and is a single-faith institution based on Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Construction of the new building began last year after funds were raised via donations and loans.

However, not only the pandemic but also bureaucracy slowed progress, Simmul said. "We also had great difficulties with the building register's e-environment. Sometimes a document took all week to upload. This all affected clients, builders and the authorities.

"Perhaps this does not affect such a large part of the population, hence why there is not so much talk about the problems relating to the building register, but it caused drastic problems for us," Simmul went on.

Perhaps appropriately, then, she and all involved in opening the school consider its being ready in time for September 1 noting short of a miracle, given the time-frame and the problems.

Simmul also noted with gratitude the help from volunteers: " Our gratitude is still indescribably greater than the anguish resulting from the obstacles."

These obstacles also included cement pouring work happening to coincide with the most severe part of winter, and necessitated weekend and night work.

However, the new, unique site (see cover image) and its purpose-built nature makes it all worthwhile, including the loan repayments, instead of the rental premises the school has been paying for for a decade now, across four different sites.

The new build includes spiritual aspects such as a Church inside the school building and a design and location, in the wooded area of Nõmme, which allows for solitude where needed, but also works on the basis of economy – including using recycled furniture and taking as much equipment from the former site as possible.

The Püha Johannese kool school was designed by the SKAD architectural firm.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

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