Department of Defense Education Activity

DoDEA Celebrates New, Modern School and 90 Years of Education at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

W.T. Sampson Staff

W.T. Sampson Staff

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA — September 30, 2021 — The Department of Defense Education Activity will celebrate a new school at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on October 7.

“I am very excited for the students and faculty at W.T. Sampson. This state-of-the-art learning facility will provide great learning opportunities for our students and faculty. Collaboration, productive struggle, creativity and innovation should be at the center of their learning experiences in their new 21st Century school,” said Dr. Donato Cuadrado, the Department of Defense Education Activity’s mid-Atlantic district superintendent.

The new W.T. Sampson Elementary High School is a state-of-the-art, 21st-century school that is attended by children who live on the installation. It replaces two school buildings that were built in 1975 and 1983. It educates about 250 students from the Sure Start Program through 12th grade.

There will be a ribbon cutting event at the school on October 7 at 10 a.m. The ceremony will feature Thomas Brady, Director of Department of Defense Education Activity, Captain White and students of the school. The ceremony will be streamed throughout the school and made available to the school community.

“The staff and students are very happy to be in this new building. When we conducted the student tours of the school, a student comment was, ‘I thought I had gone to school heaven,’” said Emilio Garza, the school’s principal. “The learning environment provides great flexibility and opportunities for engaging and challenging instructional activities, as well as interdisciplinary activities. Students can participate in activities that incorporate student communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.”

About DoDEA’s 21st-century Schools
Twenty-first century learning is student-centered, participatory and experientially oriented. To support 21st-century teaching and learning, DoDEA learning environments are flexible, integrated and adaptable to diverse activities.

This makes our schools unique. Students flow and work within an open, neighborhood concept that creates a community of learners. All students in a “neighborhood” work and collaborate with each other throughout the day.

DoDEA calls this its 21st-century school model. The heart of each grade is a commons or multipurpose space. Surrounding it are instructional spaces of various sizes that are grouped together in neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a learning hub, a central, flexible space that can be used for projects, or breakout sessions and activities. Clustered around the learning hub are learning studios or classrooms which are paired for collaborative instruction; group learning spaces for smaller-scale project work; and smaller spaces for one-to-one work. Neighborhoods also have easy access to outdoor learning and play spaces.

This community approach means students learn and work collaboratively so that all students receive a top-notch experience. Our teachers collaborate too! They co-develop learning plans together, which translates into similar homework expectations.

Celebrating 90 Years of Education at Guantanamo Bay, 75 years at DoDEA
The original W.T. Sampson school began in 1931 – with one teacher and five students gathering at the base chapel office – making it the oldest-operating overseas Department of Defense dependents school in the world. It also means that this year marks 90 years of educating military children at Guantanamo Bay.

This year also is another important milestone: DoDEA is celebrating 75 years. Why the difference? While a few schools on military bases within the continental United States, its territories and Guantanamo Bay were operating independently prior to World War II, the DoDEA school system known today formally began with the establishment of dependents schools in 1946 in the occupied countries of Germany, Austria and Japan.

Since that foundational school year, DoDEA has expanded around the world to meet the educational needs of military-connected students. In 1994, Congress unified the domestic and overseas operations under the Department of Defense Education Activity.

The school’s namesake, Rear Admiral William Thomas Sampson, was commander of the North Atlantic Squadron during the Spanish American War. Four Navy destroyers also have been named in his honor.

W.T. Sampson Facade

Construction Details
The Department of Defense managed the construction of the school, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Louisville District coordinated its furnishings. Construction on the new school began in 2017; it opened to students this spring. The school spans 101,203 square feet and cost $73.5 million.

The school features abundant natural light, augmented by energy saving LED lighting. It includes teaching systems for alternative energy education, including solar array power generation and solar hot water heaters.

Building the school on the island meant that all construction materials were shipped via barges to the island, and the construction contractor’s crews lived on site for the duration of construction.

WT Sampson Neighborhood

About DoDEA Americas
DoDEA Americas operates 50 schools in seven states, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. There are two school districts and about 1,835 teachers and 550 educational aides. School locations include Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Jackson, South, Carolina; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina; Marine Corps Air Station Quantico, Virginia; Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama; Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, Virginia; and U.S. Army Garrison West Point, New York.