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DODEA Schools: Highlighting Europe District

 

With more than a quarter-century of service in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), civil engineer Steve Ross has contributed to a broad spectrum of USACE efforts. He’s worked on environmental projects restoring formerly used defense sites; on a dam in Puerto Rico when the reservoir filled the first time; and on ports and beach renourishments in Florida. Now serving as USACE Europe District Project Management Section chief, Ross and his colleagues, in managing the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) program, are directly impacting the education of current and future students in the DODEA-Europe school system.

Two high schools in Germany, in Wiesbaden and Kaiserslautern, are currently under construction and scheduled to open in fall 2017 and 2018, respectively. Additionally, Ross said, about 15 schools are currently in various stages of the design process with three more in the planning phase.

Focusing on 21st century education that emphasizes student-centered learning and sustainable infrastructure, DODEA is in the midst of a dynamic effort to transition its schools, which serve children of active-duty military and Department of Defense (DOD) civilian families worldwide. As the design and construction agent, USACE Europe District plays a paramount role in this initiative, managing the planning, design, and construction of approximately 30 schools valued at more than $1 billion throughout Germany and Belgium, affecting nearly 18,000 students on the European continent. The DODEA program is also Europe District’s largest in terms of dollar amount.

“DODEA is basically recapitalizing their schools over roughly 10 years,” said Ross. “Many of these schools were built in the ’50s and ’60s, and so in constructing these new facilities, they’re also including a new approach to education – the 21st century concept.”

Ross explained that the 30 projects reflect those from the initial authorization in fiscal year 2010 through projected completion in FY 21. “We currently have three projects in construction, and those are valued at roughly $135 million,” he said. “We have six that have been turned over and are occupied now, and that’s approximately $220 million.”

Among recently completed projects are three SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) schools in Mons, Belgium. “Those schools – the elementary, middle, and high school – are part of an integrated campus with the 28 other nations at SHAPE,” Ross said, adding that they recently awarded a contract for international schools at the site. “At one end, you have the SHAPE elementary and middle schools and at the other end you have the SHAPE high school, and in between you have buildings that house children [from] other countries, so it provides an integrated campus that really fosters interaction between students from other countries and students from America.”

Other recently completed projects include classroom and multipurpose room additions in Ansbach and Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Both the structure of a school and how it functions have changed under the 21st century approach, emphasizing the integration of student-centered learning with state-of-the-art technology tools and sustainability.

“Last August we turned over two schools in Stuttgart, an elementary school and high school, for roughly 1,250 students,” said Ross. “I’ve been there afterwards to see the children occupying the school, and it’s really great satisfaction as a public servant to see the results of lots of hard work. Between the staff and the teachers and the students, we hear a lot of positive feedback. And you also have lessons learned. This is a 10-year program, so we are very proactive in evaluating lessons learned and applying them to our ongoing designs and future projects.”

Two high schools in Germany, in Wiesbaden and Kaiserslautern, are currently under construction and scheduled to open in fall 2017 and 2018, respectively. Additionally, Ross said, about 15 schools are currently in various stages of the design process with three more in the planning phase.

In his USACE career, Ross has alternated between Jacksonville and Europe districts, where he has worked on DODEA programs in the past. During his tour that began in 1996, he moved into project management and began work on the DODEA program that provided classroom additions for implementation of full-day kindergarten programs. “I’ve been involved with the DODEA program for six years,” he said, “and then I had this opportunity to work on this 21st century program, and I was very excited and grateful to have the opportunity.”

Both the structure of a school and how it functions have changed under the 21st century approach, emphasizing the integration of student-centered learning with state-of-the-art technology tools and sustainability.

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