Dr Barkei with students Garance (Year 12) and Kylie (Year 6) sealing the time capsule in the new Elsy Jacobs Gymnasium.;

On Tuesday 23 April 2024, St George’s International School marked a milestone in the construction of its new gymnasium with a topping out ceremony on St George's Day.

The new gymnasium is named after the world record-breaking Luxembourgish cyclist Elsy Jacobs; the annual Elsy Jacobs cycle race is being held this coming Saturday and Sunday.

Held outdoors on a crisp but sunny morning, Dr Christian Barkei, Principal, welcomed the 40+ attendees and stressed international relationships, with everyone working together to make the school a special place. On the specific construction, he talked about working out a different approach / process to build the gymnasium (which will complement the existing excellent classrooms, laboratories, etc.) and did not want to lose the valuable parking spaces: therefore the design to build it on stilts.

He also recalled the interesting challenge to name the building, with Elsy Jacobs, someone who stood up for equality, being the chosen name. “As the winner of the first women’s world road cycling championship, a world record holder for many years and someone who broke down numerous barriers in sport and women’s rights, Elsy Jacobs was our obvious and honoured choice,” Dr Barkei said.

A small school choir and orchestra then performed the Luxembourg national anthem, before Luxembourg's Ministry of Education’s First Government Advisor Martine Molitor spoke (in English). She represented the Minister for Education, Claude Meisch, and referenced the remarkable journey, making learning accessible to everyone and St Georges helping children realise their potential. She emphasised that arts and sports stimulate students and help build leadership skills and present opportunities. She remarked about St George’s contribution to Luxembourg’s economy and enriching society as a whole.

Alderman Maurice Bauer represented the Ville de Luxembourg and Mayor Lydie Polfer, and also spoke in English: he thanked St George’s International School for its diversified contribution to the city of Luxembourg. He also revealed the city’s plans to build a new athletics stadium behind St George’s school which will increase the sports facilities in the city. He remarked that St George’s is the first establishment in Luxembourg city to name a sports facility after a woman.

Gaston Zangerlé, author of the book entitled "Elsy Jacobs: ‘grande-duchesse’ de la petite reine", thanked St George’s for continuing the legacy of the famous cyclist. “Elsy Jacobs was much more than just an exceptional champion. She was the world road cycling champion in 1958 in Reims and the same year she set the world one-hour record on the track at the Vigorelli in Milan” Mr Zangerlé said, and added “Today she still embodies the fighting spirit and determination. Her career, marked by more than 300 victories, is testimony to a life dedicated to pushing the limits, not only in sport but also in the fight for equality between men and women in cycling.”

A time capsule was sealed during the ceremony; it is planned for the time capsule to be opened in 30 years' time, in 2054. Two students, Garance (Year 12), and Kylie (Year 6) revealed that it contained a poem, artwork and photos from the primary school; and a letter and a poem in the day in the life of a student (from secondary), a copy of the student newsletter "Hamm Sandwich", plus a letter by Dr Barkei, as well as aerial photographs of St George’s and Hamm.

The Elsy Jacobs gymnasium is due for completion in summer 2025; it has a double-sized sports hall, changing rooms, offices, meeting rooms and classrooms. In keeping with the school’s sustainability goals, it has many energy- and resource-saving features, including a rooftop solar farm that will generate 8% of the school’s energy needs, a green roof, low-emission heating systems and rainwater collection system.