By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum
SASEBO, Japan (Sept. 25, 2019) After five years of planning, preparation and construction, Sasebo Elementary School inaugurated their new building with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Sept. 25, 2019.
The ceremony was attended by students, faculty and parents with speeches by Sasebo Elementary School Principal Hattie Phipps, Department of Defense Educational Activity Director Thomas Brady, DoDEA Pacific Director for the Center of Educational Excellence Lois Rapp, Japan East District Superintendent Dr. Judith Allen, and Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo Chief Staff Officer Cmdr. Douglas Kennedy.
Rounding out the event was a Taiko drum performance and speeches from teacher Craig Long and student Joanne Tanaka. Long is one of the school’s longest serving teachers and Tanaka, a senior high school student, grew up in the Sasebo DODEA schools. The last segment before the ribbon cutting was the filling of a time capsule for future Sasebo Elementary Students to uncover.
The new 51 million dollar facility is the first DODEA Pacific East Elementary 21st Century School built in Japan. The 21st Century School initiative involves renovating or replacing older schools with new ones designed to facilitate modern learning methods and concepts as well as meeting standards for supporting all students. The facility is energy efficient able to monitor electrical and water conservation standards daily. Because of Japan’s location on the Ring of Fire it can also withstand 100 mph wind and is built to code for earthquake survivability.
The new school can accommodate 250 students from Sure Start/Kindergarten to 6th grade. It has a more open lay out, replacing traditional classrooms with studios that open into neighborhood hubs and one-on-one rooms. Tables have replaced desks and seating is flexible, spaces can be reconfigured as necessary for the class at hand. According to school Principal Hattie Phipps it allows for a more collaborative approach to education.
“Teachers will no longer teach in isolation,” said Phipps. “They will work collaboratively as a team ensuring every child at every grade level are receiving the same standards of instruction thereby consistency across the curriculum.”
It’s a far cry from the Quonset hut the “Dragon School” occupied when it was established in 1948. The previous school building was erected in 1978 and in the interim from its demolition to the new building’s completion classes were held in adjacent MWR building, which was the former Imperial Japanese Navy hospital, and at E.J. King High School. Off base students were bussed to Darby Elementary School during the construction phase.