FORT POLK, La. — Today, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Brig. Gen. K.K. Chinn of Fort Polk announced that funding has been secured to build a new $20 million South Polk Elementary School for more than 800 children of military families serving the U.S. Army installation in Vernon Parish.
The new school for first- through fourth-graders will be on U.S. Army property along La. 467, more than two miles north of the current school, but it will offer more convenience outside the controlled-access part of the post. The school announcement follows Gov. Jindal's 2011 announcement of $25 million in infrastructure projects to develop the area adjacent to Fort Polk. Collectively, the new school, road, water and wastewater improvements will stimulate the economy in a development district along La. 467 and along a new parkway that will be built to connect with La. 28.
Gov. Jindal said, "This new school comes on the heels of a $25 million investment by the state that will help usher in a new era of housing, retail and educational opportunities for the people of Fort Polk, Leesville and Vernon Parish. It is only fitting that we match this economic progress with a new school that will help prepare children of our military families for jobs of the 21st century workforce. There is nothing more vital than the education of our children, and if we want to truly have major economic growth here at Fort Polk and across our entire state then we need to make sure our children have the opportunity to get a great education. We know that in a global economy our children are not only competing with kids from Texas, Georgia, and other states, but they are also competing for jobs with kids in China and other countries around the world. That is why it is so important we give every child in Louisiana a great education. With partnerships and projects like this new South Polk Elementary School and the investment in infrastructure we're making in this region, we are continuing our work to make Louisiana the best place in the world to live, raise a family and find a rewarding career."
Altogether, Fort Polk generates a $1.6 billion annual economic impact. Fort Polk is the second-largest employer in Louisiana with more than 16,000 military personnel and civilian employees.
Congress appropriated $250 million in 2011 to repair or replace distressed schools on military bases. The current South Polk Elementary School located on Fort Polk faced capacity and condition problems that placed it high on the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment's priority list. That ranking made the school eligible for replacement, with the federal government providing $16 million, the State of Louisiana and the Vernon Parish School District providing $1 million each, and the school district contributing additional in-kind construction services valued at $2 million.
"The federal government, the State of Louisiana, Fort Polk and the Vernon Parish School Board share a vision - our soldiers and family members deserve a quality of life and an education commensurate with the level of service and sacrifice they've given our country," Brig. Gen. K.K. Chinn said. "There's nothing more important to parents - both military and civilian. With the strength of our partnerships here in Louisiana, together we will continue to cement Fort Polk's reputation as an installation of choice and the 'Best Hometown in the Army.'"
For the school project, the Vernon Parish School District will move approximately 535 second- through fourth-graders from the current South Polk Elementary to the new school. They will be joined by an estimated 160 first-graders who will be transferred from nearby North Polk Elementary. Finally, approximately 135 military-family students who have attended Pickering Elementary - because South Polk Elementary had reached capacity - will be transferred to the new school.
"This is a tremendous effort by the federal government, the state government and local government entities," Vernon Parish Schools Superintendent Jackie Self said. "The Vernon Parish School Board is excited to have an opportunity to construct a new South Polk Elementary School, and we want to thank the Governor for the state's participation in this project. This is going to be a wonderful facility for our students, and it's going to be a big boost to the economic development along Highway 467 where the Governor announced $25 million in improvements to that area."
About Fort Polk
Fort Polk was established in 1941 and named in honor of the Right Rev. Leonidas Polk, the first Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana and a Confederate general. Thousands of soldiers learned the basics of combat at the installation during World War II Louisiana maneuvers. Currently, Fort Polk is supporting the war on terrorism by providing contingency training for the Army's Light Infantry and Special Operations forces and by deploying home-station and reserve-component forces in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom. For more information, visit www.jrtc-polk.army.mil/