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Freedom Elementary holds ribbon cutting with dignitaries, students

FORT SILL, Okla._Dignitaries from all over the world filled the halls of Freedom Elementary on Fort Sill for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Students lined the gymnasium floor Thursday morning to hear everyone from Governor Mary Fallin to the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia talk about the value of their education and just how special their brand new school really is.

The "sounds of freedom" coming from Fort Sill’s artillery ranges were replaced by laughter and applause of elementary school children celebrating their second week in their brand new, $45 million school.

Ireland Shellaby, a 5th-grade student at Freedom Elementary, helped lead the group on a tour of the school. She says there are many things she loves about her new school, but she couldn't say what she loves the most.

"In my old school, there was no air conditioning. There are two floors. I like the shape of the desks and the walls that you are actually allowed to write on. It's really cool," Shellaby said.

Not only can they write on those walls, Shellaby and her fellow students also have the use of two full-scale performing arts stages and a large creative media center. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says that state-of-the-art technology makes the school an example for educators around the world.

"It is not only a state model, it is a national model. It's world class and we see here today the engagement of communities within the state, but also really with the military we see them giving a great big hug to Oklahoma," Hofmeister said.

Governor Fallin says it's an asset to their families as they serve in the military, whether they be stationed at Fort Sill or overseas.

"You know, one of the most important things we need to make sure we do is offer our military families good school systems, so that while they are serving their nation they know their children are in a great school getting a great education," Governor Fallin said.

On a national level, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe says the advanced technology in the school is setting the stage for the rest of the country.

"What you are seeing here at Freedom Elementary School on Fort Sill, we are going to see all around America probably 10 years from now. This is the example people are going to use," Sen. Inhofe said.

U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr. Joseph Westphal has been involved in the Freedom Elementary project since its inception when he served as the Under Secretary of the Army. He says it’s important to invest in children's education all around the world.

"I have one the largest embassies in the world and we are in a very dangerous part of the world, and we have an American school and that opportunity to provide education for the men and women who serve our country in dangerous places is critical. And so, we have built a new school there," Ambassador Westphal said.

For the students at Freedom Elementary, the experience goes full circle. They will be receiving a quality education that they can take with them into the future. The school says it best with "Freedom was made for you and me."

Another special feature that recognizes some of the specific dangers we face here in Oklahoma are the school's storm shelters. There's one located at the end of each classroom wing inside the school.

Construction on the school is not quite finished yet. They will be adding an additional wing to house pre-kindergarten students, which is projected to be finished sometime next August.

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