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New Sunbeam shines on opening day (Video, photo gallery)




More than 400 students moved next door into a new Sunbeam PreK-8 School on Tuesday, a building designed specifically for many of the children’s needs.

Like other new school buildings that CMSD has opened recently, Sunbeam offers large touchscreens in every classroom, comfortable furniture that can be arranged for group work, a large gym and modern cafeteria.

But many of the students are medically fragile or have other needs that drove custom design features, including the sprawling single-story layout, classroom doors that open directly to the outside and a large therapy pool.

“We want you to enjoy your new space,” Principal Katrinka Dean told the students, who were gathered in the gym on their first day of classes following spring break. “Welcome back, Sunbeam.”

The technology will support Sunbeam’s new instructional model, inquiry-based learning. The strategy, one of several new approaches offered in District elementary schools, engages students by allowing them to pose, research and answer questions.

Heather Mullapudi, who as a model lead teacher helps peers implement the new method, said students also will benefit from a brightly colored interior with lots of natural light and controlled heating and cooling.

Mullapud said the new building stands in sharp contrast to the old Sunbeam, which was built in 1921. “This is a breath of fresh air,” she said.

Katie Eckles, who teaches medically fragile students in the sixth through eighth grades, felt liberated from her old windowless room. She looks forward to warmer weather and helping her class plant vegetables outside the classroom door.

“I’m loving it,” she said.

Community partners helped to welcome students and celebrate the occasion. Included were members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, which helps the school by mentoring students, distributing toys at Christmas, organizing a prom for eighth-graders and supporting end-of-the-school year Field Day activities.

The school is named for the Sunbeam Circle, a women's group that aided pediatric patients at Lakeside Hospital. Ward Councilman Blaine Griffin, who also was on hand for the opening, said the historic school remains an important part of the Larchmere area and enjoys strong community support.

“The school is an anchor for our neighborhood,” he said. “This is an exciting day for us.”

The building is the sixth opened this school year as part of a District modernization program that began in 2002. Since then, CMSD has constructed or fully renovated nearly 50 buildings.

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