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Department of defense education activity: New year, new home

Fort Campbell High School staff preps to welcome students to 21st century facility

Fort Campbell Courier
Fort Campbell | July 26, 2018

The excitement was palpable this morning as educators and administrators of Fort Campbell High School entered their new 21st century building to prepare for students and the new school year.

“We are excited to be in this new building and for all of the opportunities that it will provide for our students to learn. It is a very exciting time for DoDEA [Department of Defense Education Activity] schools,” said Kimberly Butts, FCHS principal.

The new $59 million, energy and environmentally sustainable, 184,000-square-foot, two-story facility for ninth through 12th grades is scheduled to open Aug. 6. In May 2015 Walsh Federal began construction of the school that is considered to be a DoDEA model.

FCHS is one of only two high schools on Army installations within the continental United States, the other is at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The facility, that can accommodate 800 students, boasts Wi-Fi throughout the school and interactive smart board technology. Smart boards allow teachers and students to project images onto the board and then interact with it by moving the image around or writing on it.

“This technology allows our teachers versatility,” said Stacy Green Daniels, senior counselor at FCHS.

Outside, the campus houses a soccer field surrounded by a six-lane track, tennis courts, an amphitheater and a weather station.

Every educational opportunity was considered in the design of the building and its amenities down to the variety of furnishings and seating options that support different “learning modalities” as well as vast open spaces throughout the building to enhance collaboration, teaching and learning.

Throughout FCHS there are small signs that explain how the building itself functions, and at the top of the stairs that lead to the second floor, an energy dashboard, will inform students how much energy the school is consuming by neighborhood in real time. “The building itself is a learning tool,” Daniels said. “DoDEA is invested in our Fort Campbell community in such a manner that we want to expose these military-connected students to not only great teaching but to a 21st century educational experience where they can encounter firsthand what they are going to experience at the collegiate level.”

A place for learning

Following the 21st century school model, FCHS features eight neighborhoods that represent subjects similar to the way colleges are organized within a university campus. Within each neighborhood there are six to seven learning studios, a group learning room, a one-on-one teaching room, a hub, and a staff collaboration space.

“Our design accommodates today’s learners who prefer interactive and social activities. Learning studios allow students to work in small groups of two to six, to interact directly, see facial expressions and establish eye contact,” Daniels said.

Ken Jankowski, social studies and foreign language teacher, said the building’s design and amenities enhance creativity, collaboration and student-led learning.

“The days of straight rows of students in desks and lectures – those days are gone. And so what we are trying to do is have more collaboration,” Jankowski said. “If I am doing 80 percent of the talking in my classroom then I am a terrible teacher. The students need to be thinking, they need to be communicating, they need to be problem-solving.”

To support the students of the 21st century, science, technology, engineering and mathematics are emphasized at FCHS, and so a science lab learning studio was incorporated into each neighborhood to allow for STEM to be integrated into every subject, Daniels said.

“Having labs in every neighborhood is big because STEM is a big part of where education is going. You might ask: ‘What does a German teacher have to do with STEM,’” Jankowski said. “Teachers have to keep kids engaged, they have to be creative. It could be as simple as my students are going to make a recipe, but they have to learn the metric system as opposed to what we use here in the United States, or something as simple as a hands-on comparison of Fahrenheit and Celsius.”

There also are specialized learning studios that include video production, art, chorus, JROTC, Career Technology Education, Special Education, and a theater with moveable seating.  

“You can make it anything,” Daniels said. “That is one of the beauties of that room, we can adjust the seating based on our needs. If I need to administer a test, I am able to close off the theater and arrange the seating based on the requirements of that test – each test has different seating requirements. I can be on the stage and read the directions and then test a large group of students for a standardized test such as the ASVAB [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery]. We give the ASVAB to all 11th graders every year.”

A distance learning studio provides students access to DoDEA’s virtual high school where they can take classes not offered at FCHS.

“With the resources we have with the DoDEA virtual high school we are able to provide more individualized learning opportunities for students,” Daniels said.

Whether college-bound or on a career track, DoDEA strives to provide “excellence in education for every student, every day, everywhere,” she said.

“DoDEA has college and career readiness standards that are very important to us, and here we have a building that supports our mission,” Daniels said. “When you visit a college campus you see so many inspiring things and how those support learning, and that is what DoDEA has done with this building. DoDEA has provided our students on this installation a school that will support their learning and encourage them to reach beyond their educational goals.”

FCHS Commons

From the front entry at 912 Carentan Road, a hallway leads into a sprawling atrium-like centralized commons area that fills with natural light during the day. Its focal point is a large abstract American flag and above it the words “Welcome to Fort Campbell High School.”

“We are a very welcoming school. In all my years here I’ve never seen a kid not fit in,” Daniels said. “The open feeling in this building is very indicative of our student body and our teachers.”

In a world of constant change, parent Sandra Murphy said, FCHS provides military-connected students a sense of stability.

“This new high school gives the students security in knowing that if they are going to be here for four years, the school will be here for them. It gives them comfort and that security to overcome the anxiety they may be feeling because their parent is deployed or far away from home,” Murphy said.

The commons area where students will eat lunch is arranged similar to a university center and also can serve as an area for presentations or space for large gatherings like school dances.

“One of the keys with this building is the versatility and functionality of all the spaces, which is really going to benefit our students,” Daniels said.

Another unique feature of the school is the learning stairs at the end of the commons area that can easily accommodate several classes for group lectures or collaborative activities. The wide wooden stairs are perfect for casual seating and are adorned with inspirational quotes from luminaries like Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as those connected to Fort Campbell including Gen. Colin Powell who served as 2nd Brigade commander at Fort Campbell in 1976, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gerard Counts, who worked at FCHS after retiring from the Army as a school resource officer.

Counts’ quote reads: “I will believe where all of those before me have doubted.”

“I love that we have his quote here on our steps and I love it that we have Colin Powell’s because those quotes tie into our community,” Daniels said.

FCHS will host a new student and ninth grade orientation at 1 p.m. Aug. 2, and an open house 5-7 p.m. Aug. 7. A ribbon cutting celebration is scheduled for Nov. 15.

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