Lawton-Fort Sill_Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is on track. Officials at Fort Sill say that all of the construction is on time, and about 60% complete. It will make room from 10,000 new bodies arriving, and thanks to the BRAC Commission it's one nugget that leaders form all over Southwest Oklahoma learned on Friday.
More than 100 people came together at Fort Sill to learn how preparations are going, and to discover how much the anticipated growth will affect their communities. A large concern is education. Officials want to know whether their existing schools will be able to handle an influx of potential students.
Several Southwest Oklahoma school superintendents say they are optimistic, and anticipate a lot of new faces. They said they plan to accommodate all of the new students while in a packed house at Fort Sill's Patriot Club. Superintendent of Apache Public Schools, Joe Hulsey, says Fort Sill's growth presents an opportunity - not a burden. "One of the things is awareness," he said. "We make sure our staff's aware, make sure our community s aware, and that they have a welcome place to come." Hulsey says he's optimistic because Apache has room for growth. "Right now, our classes average from nine to 15 kids per classroom," he said. Even school systems one hour away from post, such as Frederick, expect to see growth, despite being 'on the fringe.'
Fort Sill Commander Major General Peter Vangjel says he understands that Fort Sill's growth means that people leaving in outlying areas of Lawton-Fort Sill will have new neighbors soon. "It s also about Cache, Walters, Elgin...you can go up to Medicine Park," he said. "There will be places where people will be living all around."
Hulsey says he plans to show all of the new residents and students in his school district that they now are honest-to-goodness members of the community - not just guests. Many school superintendents - from all over Southwest Oklahoma - say they are ready to absorb new folks moving to their areas. Southwest Oklahoma leaders say they expect to have another meeting in about 6 weeks when they plan to make the group official. When they do, they will come up with a name and vote on it.