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Westphal speaks at Freedom Elementary Groundbreaking

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FORT SILL Okla_ Local and national leaders, along with a handful of children, broke ground on the new Freedom Elementary at Fort Sill Friday.

The school will hold 1,400 students, and it will replace the two existing elementary schools at Fort Sill, Geronimo Road and Sheridan Road. It will be built near the Geronimo Road School.

The project will cost $45M, with about $37M of that coming from the federal government. The new school will have a four-building complex: one building for early childhood, one for primary education, one for intermediate education, and an activities facility, which will house the gym, cafeteria and library. Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal said after touring the existing school today, he saw how great the need is.

 "We will finally modernize their elementary education.  We will bring better facilities, a healthier environment to learn in," Westphal said.

Earlier this week, Fort Sill's Post Commander heard comments from the community about the possible impact of Army wide troop reductions because of budget cuts. Combine that with the ongoing struggle with the sequester, Westphal commented on what might that  mean for this project, since they're funding the bulk of it.

"Budgets are tight all the way around, and there will be some folks I'm sure, who will say, is that the best use of money. Should the local communities pay for it all, etc. But, we will stand fast and defend the fact that this is about military kids. These are schools inside our military installations.  They support our soldiers, and their families, and we have to do the best we can to insure that this isn't passed off to the future and this is done now."

The Pentagon chose to fund this project after Fort Sill's aging schools made the top 12 on the Defense Department's public school improvement priority list.

 

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