Fort Campbell High School nears completion

Published April 20, 2017
Construction is nearly complete on the new $59 million Fort Campbell High School in Kentucky—the first high school in the United States designed under the Twenty-First Century Education Initiative by Department of Defense Education Activities, referred to as DoDEA.

The 184,000-square-foot school is being constructed to make room for approximately 800 students who will fill its halls in 2018. The project helps replace the existing school built in 1985 which can no longer accommodate the growing student enrollment. 

“The students and staff in the existing school are currently in an old space and we are helping to bring them into a new twenty-first century space that’s quiet, open and comfortable,” said Mike Schlenke, project manager with Walsh Construction, which also completed the new Marshall Elementary at Fort Campbell last year.

DoDEA twenty-first century schools are intended to be more flexible and provide open, adaptable teaching areas. The high school will have eight neighborhoods with a central hub and five classrooms surrounding it, as well as one-to-one and group learning spaces.

“All of these teaching spaces are flexible,” said Schlenke. “The idea is to foster team teaching and collaborative learning; it will foster the students coming together like a family.”

Green features

In addition to being LEED Silver certifiable, DoDEA schools incorporate educational green features throughout to teach students about the building around them. 

“Almost everywhere when you go through the school you are being told a story through the green features,” said Schlenke. 

There are exposed pipes for learning about the building’s components, signs on the wall that tout the benefits of recycling, and a TV panel in the main lobby to provide information about the school’s energy usage. It will even include fun facts about how many Big Macs could be purchased based on the amount of conserved energy.  

“It’s a tool, a cool way to get them enthused with STEM,” Schlenke said, “It relates it back to their daily life.”

It’s all in the details

The attention to details doesn’t stop with green features, though. 

“As you walk through the building you’ll notice the patterns that start to flow through the building. The same arcs and waves and shapes flow throughout. It is very well thought out,” said Schlenke, who compliments the Architect –Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.,—for the wonderful design. “They really paid attention to the details.”

One example is the choir room ceiling, where at first glance one might not notice, but the acoustical panels, or clouds, are designed to look like pressed piano keys suspended from the ceiling.  

“That’s the kind of thought that went into this,” said Schlenke. “The level of detail and the thought process of the architects is amazing.”

The learning stairs in the main lobby will feature famous, historical quotes etched into the wood panels. 

“It’s a really prominent feature of the building,” said Schlenke. “It’s a gathering space where kids can talk or study. They want that sense of community. They focused on that and they definitely hit a home run here.”

In addition to a student garden, an outdoor amphitheater, two gymnasiums, a soccer field, tennis courts and a running track, the school—by nature of being on an Army base—houses a JROTC air rifle range. 

“Things are starting to take shape administratively from the school perspective,” said Schlenke, who provided the principal and staff with a walk-through tour recently. “The staff were looking at their spaces envisioning where they would put certain things and that really helps bring it all together.” 

Schlenke who has worked on many schools in the past is always excited to see the project across the finish line. The project, which is currently 87 percent complete and expected to wrap-up construction in July, has approximately 90 workers on site to help get the job done. 

“The Corps has been great to work with; Jacobs, the architect, has been great to work with; we’ve held together as a team very well here,” said Schlenke. “It’s been very, very positive.”