The Sunshine School

The Sunshine School, housed on the north side of Springfield High School, was an early special education facility. It also was part of a nationwide effort to combat diseases such as tuberculosis.

Many school districts across the country hosted similar “preventoria,” often also under the “Sunshine School” name. The Berkeley, Calif., school district spelled out qualifications for entrance into its Sunshine School, as reported by the American Journal of Public Health in 1928:

The Sunshine School was organized to care for children in the following groups: Convalescents from acute illness; Children with or without known tuberculous infection in danger of developing tuberculous disease; Cardiacs needing increased rest, limited activity and careful supervision of exercise; Children with other organic defects who would be benefitted by a rest regime; Children discharged from the preventorium or sanatorium who were still in need of increased rest and close medical supervision.

Springfield’s Sunshine School “was the forerunner of the special rooms and classes which are an integral part of today’s public education system,” State Journal-Register columnist Pauline Telford wrote on Aug. 15, 1965. “… (I)t was attended by youngsters who either had tuberculosis  or a tendency toward that disease.”

Melinda Fish Kwedar wrote about the Sunshine School in a 1977 article on the school’s principal, Hettie Bunker Smith. It was open to “children with respiratory or cardiac problems or whose fathers had been gassed in World War I,” she said. “It was called the Sunshine School because the children had an extraordinary need for the healing properties of sunshine.”

The local school continued to operate until the early 1940s.


Pauline Telford column, Illinois State Journal, Aug. 15, 1965 (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Unsung Heroines: A Salute to Springfield Women, Melinda Fish Kwedar: Sangamon County Historical Society, 1977 (out of print).schs logo (2)

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

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