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Modernization Ahead for Defense Department Schools

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2010 – A program to improve Defense Department schools and ensure 21st century learning environments for military children is set to begin in October, department officials said today.

The Department of Defense Education Activity will address some $3.7 billion in construction and renovation needs worldwide over the next five years.

“We’re ecstatic to have the resources we need to improve the conditions of our school facilities,” Russ Roberts, chief logistician for the activity, said. “It’s important for us that we can continue to deliver the quality education our military children deserve.”

Of the department’s 191 schools, 134 are considered below standard, he noted.

Improvements will include new heating and air systems, plumbing, ventilation, electrical and structural repairs. Some schools will be replaced entirely, with new facilities constructed in their place, he said.

“We have a responsibility to create and maintain safe and secure education facilities to keep up with the education requirements,” Roberts said. “The goal is to be good stewards of our facilities and keep them maintained to environments our students can learn.”

According to a statement released by the activity yesterday, 70 percent of activity’s schools are below the Defense Department’s quality standard. The standards which the schools are held were established in 2005, which has made it difficult for the officials to barter for needed funds, Roberts added.

“It was kind of an empty threat,” he said, referring to requests to improve facilities. “There was no standard to put up against what we felt we needed. As soon as [the Defense Department] put that [standard] out, then it was pretty easy to see where we set in.”

Most schools were deemed too old to meet department standards, Roberts said, which is why so many schools have such low quality ratings. “Most of our schools were built in the 1970s or before, and cannot hold the technologies,” he said.

Kevin Kelly, the activity’s associate director for finance and business operations, said it’s simply more cost-effective to replace the entire school, rather than try to modernize the existing facilities.

“We have schools that were built in the 1950s and ’60s that weren’t even built to be schools,” Kelly said. “A lot of our schools have one electrical outlet in each room, and we can’t put computers in the classrooms, because we’re overloading our electrical systems.”

Also, the department is going “green” with its schools. Some of the newer schools, mainly overseas, Roberts said, have green roofs. This has made heating and electrical systems much more efficient, he added. All of the newly constructed schools will have similar plans, he said.

“Our whole design process and standards have focused on begin green and more ecology friendly,” he said.

Despite the positive impact and benefits the program may have, Roberts said improving department schools does not stop when the program ends. The activity will continue to manage a school replacement and upgrade program, he added.

“We have 191 schools, [and] we’re taking care of about 134 of these,” he said. “Some of our schools, we can get to an acceptable rating with just some major construction. But at some point, even those schools will need to be replaced.”

But in the end, it’s about ensuring the children receive a quality education, he added.

“It’s all about the children,” he said. “Their parents sacrifice so much for our nation, and we owe their children a quality education.”

 

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Department of Defense Education Activity


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

11/2/2010 8:03:42 AM
My children just came from a DOD school in SC and my 5th grader wasn't getting spelling words!! I was told that they have spell check!! Is this what our DOD school standards are?? To force our children to a wold of technology because heaven forbid they used their brains before a computer?? My son was in Pre K there too before we moved and he hadn't learned a thing either!! I had him going to a paid CDC program on base and he was writing his name last year at the age of 3. Now my 5th grader is in public school in FL and she is behind by their standards. Thanks DOD schools in SC for providing my kids a sub standard education. Bad enough that SC is ranked one of the lowest for poor education in public schools. I expect a higher standard from our DOD schools!
- Sharie, JAX

8/24/2010 11:16:40 AM
I would really like to see DOD schools at every Military instillation. There is nothing worse than being PCSing to a new school district and finding out that your kids are behind or ahead. Ahead is always better for sure but, with the number of Soldiers being sent to places like El Paso, TX or Hinesville, GA where the public schools are garbage at best, our Military Families are suffering. I would be much more at ease if I knew that no matter when the Military decided to make me PCS, my children’s education wouldn’t suffer in the process. Not to mention, Soldiers prefer to PCS in the summer time for their children’s sake based on the school calendar. However, if there was a DOD system every where, educationally it wouldn’t matter because all the schools would be on the same educational landmarks, making the transition easier for everyone.
- Harold Butterfield, Colorado Springs

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