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Congresswoman tours school construction site (Photo gallery)






U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge visited a CMSD school construction site on Tuesday, learning about minority participation in the project, the building’s unusual design and the school’s importance to the neighborhood.

Fudge came to the location of the new Sunbeam PreK-8 School to hear about the role that The AKA Team, a minority- and woman-owned company, plays as associate construction manager. She met with owner Ariane Kirkpatrick at the invitation of Goldman Sachs, funder of the 10,000 Small Businesses program that trained Kirkpatrick in areas such risk management, financing and recruiting.

Since 2002, when CMSD started replacing and renovating schools with money from the state and local taxpayers, the District has strived to meet goals of having minorities work 20 percent of the hours; women, 5 percent; and District residents, 20 percent. The most recent monthly report shows that of more than 4.5 million hours worked since the program began, minorities have logged 19.9 percent; women, 3.2 percent; and residents, 17.4 percent.

Fudge said efforts to cultivate small businesses and promote diverse employment are critical in cities like Cleveland that have large minority populations. She fears that failure to be inclusive will create a “permanent underclass.”

The 11th District congresswoman observed a morning meeting where project contractors discussed various subjects, including their employee demographics. She then toured the shell of the new building under construction at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Woodland Avenue, on a hilltop parcel with a view of downtown Cleveland to the west.

The new one-story school, with room for more than 500 students, will replace the existing Sunbeam, built next door in 1921. Principal Katrinka Dean said the community is buzzing about the new school and enrollment is growing. 

Sunbeam’s enrollment, currently at 379, includes a number of students who are visually impaired or medically fragile. To accommodate special needs, the new school was designed to give each classroom direct access to an adjacent courtyard that will be sized and equipped for the age of the students. Each room also will have its own restroom.

The school also will come with a larger therapy pool and nurse’s office that provides an examination room for visiting doctors and other practitioners. Other features will include a kinesthetic learning studio for physical and occupational therapy and a lab where the school can repair or modify wheelchairs.

“We looked at everything we could do to make it easier on these students,’ said Melissa Fliegel of Van Auken Akins Architects.

City Councilman Blaine Griffin, who lives near Sunbeam and sent his children there, told Fudge that the school draws from across the District while also serving as a focal point for the Larchmere neighborhood.

“What this school means to this neighborhood is enormous,” he said. “It’s the anchor, the downtown of this neighborhood.”

The new Sunbeam is scheduled to be finished early next year. It is one of seven new PreK-8 buildings that CMSD will open this school year.

Since the building program began, the District and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission have completed construction and renovation of more than 40 buildings. The state pays two-thirds of the cost of new construction and substantial renovation.

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