Budget Request Calls for New, Renovated Schools
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2010 Military children are one of the many groups poised to benefit from President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request.
The request, announced yesterday, provides $439 million for the Department of Defense Education Activity to replace or renovate 10 of its schools, said Kevin Kelly, the activity’s associate director for financial and business operations. This is the first step in a plan to replace or renovate more than 100 schools by 2015, he added.
“The budget request demonstrates that this administration is fully behind education and very supportive of our military dependents,” Kelly said. “They understand the needs of the military – if we care for the families, folks will be able to get the job done.”
The new schools are sorely needed, Kelly noted. Some of the activity’s nearly 200 schools date back to the 1940s. They initially were built as barracks or hospitals and later transformed into schoolhouses.
“Some of these schools are getting in bad shape,” he said. “It’s time to get them up to date.”
If the request is approved, the education activity’s plan calls for new schools overseas in Belgium, Puerto Rico, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as stateside in North Carolina, Georgia, New York and Virginia. The construction will take two years, with completion scheduled for 2013, Kelly said.
Schools with limited electrical outlets and power will be replaced with state-of-the-art buildings equipped with the latest technology, he said. “We’re going to equip the schools with everything needed for the 21st-century student,” he said.
Other schools are slated to be renovated, with makeovers to gymnasiums or entire wings. In Georgia, for instance, the plan calls for a new gymnasium to be built at an elementary school on Fort Benning, and a new wing is slated for a middle school at West Point, N.Y.
Additional funds will used for school upkeep as well as the funding of new programs, including Operation Virtual School, Kelly said. This program, scheduled to launch in the fall, will enable geographically dispersed students or students at smaller schools to access a wide range of classes online.
The activity has been working on this budget request since last June, Kelly said, and has received ongoing support from the Pentagon.
“Our schools are competing for scarce resources against facilities such as barracks, hangars for aircraft, and our leadership decided our schools are just as important,” he said. “It’s evident that the Defense Department is very concerned about our dependents and wants to make sure they get the best facilities possible.”
Kelly said activity officials remain hopeful the request will be passed by Congress.
“We’re just ecstatic with the outcome so far and hope for a solid bill on Oct. 1,” he said.