5 Vernon Parish schools awarded facilities from U.S. D.O.D. grant

The Vernon Parish School Board held a ceremony to celebrate the implementation of the Defense Community Infrastructure Program.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 6:11 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 6:19 PM CST
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LEESVILLE, La. (KALB) - The Vernon Parish School Board held a ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 16, to celebrate the implementation of the Defense Community Infrastructure Program, which addresses quality-of-life enhancements in military communities.

Governor John Bel Edwards announced in September 2020 that the U.S. Department of Defense awarded an approximate $7.5 million grant to five schools in Vernon: Leesville High School, Leesville Junior High School, Vernon Middle School, Pickering Elementary and Pickering High School. Those five schools serve thousands of families supported by the U.S. Army’s Fort Johnson.

“There’s not a community anywhere in the country that is having more impact on our country and on our security than right here in Leesville, in Vernon Parish,” the governor said.

More than 2,000 military children attend Vernon Parish schools, accounting for roughly one-quarter of total enrollment. The Campus Connections and Learning Spaces Project would deliver state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor learning settings with cutting-edge wireless connections, digital displays and interactive learning aids to children from military and civilian families.

“Overall, what it does is enhance our educational opportunities for our students,” said James Williams, Vernon Parish School Superintendent. “It gets us a chance to get more deeply involved and more heavily involved with the STEAM initiative, and it’s also a good thing for our community.”

It is a program that will support families just as much as it supports each student in the program.

“As a mother of three and 25 years and military, I can tell you that the centerpiece for these families is your childcare facilities and your schools,” said Colonel Sally Hannon, DCIP Project Officer. “That is where the sense of one community has felt the most.”

Louisiana Economic Development will provide a 10% match for the Department of Defense award, which will enhance the five schools even further.

Williams said this program shows the direction that education is heading.

“Now you have kids, you can look around, you see elementary kids that are flying drones, elementary kids that are doing robotics. And this is just an educational enhancement and opportunity for these kids,” he said.

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