A new elementary school is being built on Fort Stewart, according to Dr. Gael Coyle, assistant superintendent for Department of Defense Education Activity on Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield.
“The purpose of the new school is the need for more space,” explained Coyle, saying two schools were originally planned when an additional brigade was slated for Fort Stewart. “We have since had an increase in students, and every bit of space is being used.”
She said part of the reason for the increased number of students is new, on-post family housing. Many of the old one- and two-bedroom homes have been replaced with three-and four-bedroom homes, she said. Larger families mean more children — more students.
She said new, class-size standards have also added to the need, noting that in years past, there were as many as 25 students per elementary classroom. The new standards call for a smaller teacher-to-student ratio. Now there are only 18 students per classroom, which she said means more classrooms are needed.
She said the new school will be near the corner of Murray and Austin Streets, not far from Brittin Elementary. It will look similar to Kessler Elementary and will hold 450 students, prekindergarten to 6th grade. Kessler is the newest of the three schools on Fort Stewart. It opened in 2006.
Coyle said the new school has not been named, explaining that’s a detailed process involving committees. She talked at length about other classroom changes that will be included in the new school.
She said the school’s halls will be wide enoigh to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there will be more natural overhead lighting. Much of the latest technology will be incorporated into classrooms, including computers with internet access.
“All of our books now are digital,” she said, explaining how smart boards can be used along with digital texts to show students how to move words or sentences around in a paragraph, much like cutting and pasting in a Word document.
She said the new school will be energy efficiency.
“The life of a school is about 30 years,” she said, noting that the post’s older schools, Brittin and Diamond Elementary, are nearing the end of their lives. “The DoDEA has a rating system for determining when schools need to be replaced.”
She said the next project here for DoDEA will be replacing Diamond. Construction for that school should begin in 2014, she said.
Coyle said the ground breaking for the new school has already taken place, construction will begin soon and completion is expected by next December. Between January 2014 and the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, furniture and equipment will be installed. A principal will be named in May, she said.
When the school opens, she said students will be reassigned from all of the other schools, especially from Diamond, which has about 1,000 students. Kessler currently has about 450 students and Brittin has about 500 students.