The new W.T. Sampson Elementary-High School on Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba opened its doors to approximately 275 students this spring, thanks in part to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District.
Jared Korfhage, USACE Louisville District project manager within the Planning, Programs, and Project Management Division’s Reserve Support Branch, who focuses on the furniture program in support of the Department of Defense Education Activity, recently led the successful outfitting of the new school. The project included over $3.5 million in Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E), Audio/Video (AV) equipment and security contracts.
“These schools have a huge impact on military families and the local communities,” said Korfhage. “Knowing that the furniture will be utilized in a learning environment by students and staff on base for many years to come is very fulfilling.”
The combined elementary, middle, and high school showcases the team’s efforts to provide furniture with the attributes required for the 21st Century style of learning used by DoDEA.
Kristian Jolly, interior designer for the USACE Louisville District says designing a 21st learning environment is about creating a space that supports collaboration, flexibility and interactive learning.
“Furniture selections do a lot to support these design principles. Some of the furnishings you will see in a 21st century learning environment are quite a departure from the stationary forward-facing classrooms of the past,” said Jolly. “We utilize a lot of mobile furnishings to allow students and teachers to easily reconfigure a furniture layout to fit their needs. You will see various levels of seating to support different activities and learning styles.”
“It is rewarding to work on these projects knowing the impact they can have on a child’s education experience,” she added.
Korfhage agrees and said he would have liked to go to a school like this when he was younger.
“The newly constructed state-of-the-art DoDEA schools are truly incredible, and I feel like furniture is the final piece in making them complete and usable,” said Korfhage.
Since 2014, the Louisville District has partnered with DoDEA providing furniture and equipment for schools around the world—in more than seven countries—but working in Cuba presented a new set of challenges.
Korfhage said the project faced many logistical challenges including limited shipment and transportation to the island, strict access requirements for contractors, and a required two-week quarantine period for all personnel due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“GTMO is very different than a lot of other military bases. For travel, the only way to fly to GTMO is on the military rotator flight that has limited capacity. For deliveries, there is a barge that departs from Jacksonville, Florida once every two weeks and there is no guarantee the product would not be bumped for more critical base items,” said Korfhage. “Once you actually make it to the base, the only way off is the departing flight. So, during the install if the installation team needs an extra tool or supply, there is no hardware store off base to visit.”