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Beamer almost ready to roll

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

A red brick split level, U-shaped building has slowly risen from grassy land near Hylebos Creek in Federal Way.

Inside are an auditorium with movie theater-style seats, a gym with sleek polished floors and retractable bleachers, a weight room and three wings which will house autonomous learning academies, among other things.

This is the new Todd Beamer High School, which will officially open its doors to about 1,050 students Sept. 2.

An emphasis on individualized learning, academic studies on the relationship between natural lighting and learning, and the creation of three autonomous academies were the influence for the school’s design and construction.

Inside, the school is colorful. Beamer also features walls painted in muted vegetable and plant colors like eggplant and paprika, mobile furniture with wheels, a concrete floor stained in green and orange hues, a spacious library and tiny stained-glass windows inserted into larger windows. A football field, a baseball field, a track and adjoining courtyards are also on the school property.

“When we defined our instructional program, everything about this building helped facilitate that,” said Principal Carol Eberhart.

The school features three autonomous learning academies — the Humanities and Arts Academy, the Puget Sound Business and Industry Academy and the Math/Science and Health/Fitness Academy. Each student picks the one that appeals most and attends that academy throughout their time at Beamer. The last two years focus on career preparation and developing the student’s field of interest.

The foundation of the school curriculum lies in dedicating the freshman and sophomore years to CORE classes — math, science, reading, writing, social studies and fitness — and allowing students to explore vocational interests during the junior and senior years.

“Our vision is that every student (after graduation) will be able to do college-level work,” said Eberhart. That could mean going on to college, an apprenticeship or vocational training, she said.

Indeed, the school design emphasizes giving students hands-on experience in careers such as architectural design, engineering, marketing and marine biology, among others. On the school’s lower level, below the library, are “project rooms” in which students will create and present projects based on careers in transportation, communication technology and architectural design, among others.

Beamer’s emphasis on specialized education and hands-on training come on top of state pressure for students to pass the WASL. Eberhart said the school will especially focus on math and language arts. And the school is ready to meet that challenge as well — educators have planned pre-WASL preparation for students.

“Much of the design of our construction is based on Socratic seminar,” said Eberhart. For that reason, the school furniture is mobile — desks, supply closets and other large pieces of furniture are on wheels. The desks — called Einstein desks — can be easily put together to make a larger table, and the seats are detachable.

The school is almost ready for istudents. The construction crew only has to finish the paving, and the inside projects — like assembling computers, setting up the school store and decorating classrooms — are merely finishing touches, officials said.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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