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Families Returning to 'Gitmo'; School Starts Jan. 29

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 1995 – A plane loaded with 97 adults and 61 children landed at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in early December marking the return of families with schoolage children to the base.

The Navy had evacuated more than 2,200 dependents, including some 400 school children, from Guantanamo to the United States to make room for a large influx of Haitian and Cuban migrants.

Petty Officer Jon McMillan said about 250 students in kindergarten through 12th grade are expected before the DoD dependents schools open on Jan. 29. He added about 30 teachers and staff were expected around midJanuary.

By the summer, schools expect to have about 450 children from Kindergarten through 12th grade, spokesman Chief Petty Officer Doug Coulter added.

"The community spirit has risen since the kids started returning," Coulter said. "There is much more of a family atmosphere, rather than seeing military people all the time."

Nearly all Haitian migrants have been repatriated. About 5,000 remaining Cuban migrants are expected to be gone by the end of February.

Cuban migrants are helping restore the base to "better than its condition before migrants and joint task force personnel arrived," McMillan said. "The Cubans are eager to help restore the base to what it once was. Members of the joint task force Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard are also helping.

"Cubans are working all over the base," McMillan said. "Most of them have technical skills they learned in Cuba. They're helping restore facilities such as the youth center and elementary school. The work they are doing saves the government hundreds of thousands of dollars."

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