Facebook town hall: Thousands take part in online forum
August 8, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Aug. 8, 2012) -- More than 31,000 people logged in Wednesday to view the comment thread at Fort Benning's third virtual town hall via Facebook Aug. 1. For 90 minutes, families had the undivided attention of the installation's garrison command and directorates.
The focus of the town hall was on schools, though families were invited to ask questions on anything that concerned them.
Top concerns included speeding near schools, educational requirements, discipline policies and bus stops. This is the first of a two-part segment detailing the questions and answers from the town hall, which is also available at www.facebook.com/fortbenningfans.
Questions that were missed or required follow-up information will be printed in next week's edition.
Q: Since it was announced today that our superintendent will be going to the Japan District, who will be filling in? I would think less than a week until the start of school, it would be crucial to have that post filled.
A: From Benning School superintendent, Lois Rapp: I will be here until mid-September to make sure that we are off to a great start. We are currently looking for the best candidate and be assured that the schools will be in good hands.
Q: I am the president of the Parent Teacher Organization for Wilson Elementary. I am very confused why the fundraising for schools are so complicated. In a military school, the PTO changes over often, more often than an off-post school. I feel there should be meetings or training to go over rules, requirements and pointers before the outgoing members leave.
A: From DFMWR: We will be glad to brief PTO officers and school personnel on the fundraising policy, and we can make that happen at a time that works for the annual transition. Give us a call at (706) 545-3700.
Q: I am a single parent and there are a lot of activities I would like for my daughter to be in but they conflict with my work schedule. Could they host weekend activities for single parents to transport their children to?
A: From DFMWR: Though we don't know your daughter's age, we can tell you that we offer a lot of weekend events and activities through CYSS, including SKIESUnlimited, sports and the Middle School & Teen program. Be sure to check out the upcoming events on our Facebook page or at www.benningmwr.com.
Q: My son is in training at Fort Benning right now but I did not receive a letter with information regarding his graduation. I have written him and asked for information but my concern is that I need to book my trip sooner rather than later. Is there a way for me to find out the information?
A: Depending upon how long your Soldier is here for training, you will receive a letter with all the information you need generally halfway through training. Also, check the company's Facebook page. Keep in mind if you buy airplane tickets to ensure they are refundable, as things can change.
Q: Do the schools have voice mail systems? I've been calling Faith Middle School for two days and there is no answer and no voice mail.
A: From Faith: We will check on the phone number and have that issue taken care of. A voice mail system will be in place by the end of the week.
Q: Who was in charge of deciding on the new math programs for the grade schools? My daughter was in second grade last year and the way the math was approached made it more difficult. Her teacher informed me it was the first year with the program and she found it difficult as well. It was hard to assist my child with homework.
A: The Department of Defense Educational Activity Headquarters selected the math materials by using a committee comprised of parents, teachers, and math specialists from all around DoDEA. Materials were selected to ensure compatibility with math standards. Please refer specific questions pertaining to homework to the child's classroom teacher. If concerns still remain, please consult with the school principal.
Q: Will there be any changes this school year? Have we experienced any budget cuts to our schools?
A: We have not had any budget cuts at the school level for Fort Benning.
Q: When will we hear who my daughter's pre-k teacher will be, and if my daughter will attend in the morning or afternoon?
A: All elementary schools hosted a Sneak-A-Peek event Aug. 6 for students and parents to know their classes and assignments. Pre-K classes begin Aug. 20 and, prior to that, teachers will conduct home visits.
Q: Is there any type of transportation home for kids who participate in after-school activities? We are a one-car family and my husband works 36 hours or more at a time. I hate that my daughter might miss out on events and activities.
A: DoDEA regulations prevent us from offering bus transportation for after-school activities on the installation. We regret that we can't solve this issue.
Q: Are there bus services for after-school programs at the local high schools our Fort Benning students attend? If not, is there a way we can get this program in place? Not everyone has a second vehicle and I think kids being in after-school programs like track, football and so on promoted good health, athleticism, weight control and keeps them out of trouble.
A: From DFMWR: The schools do not provide transportation for high schoolers for extracurricular activities, unfortunately, and it's not within the garrison scope of responsibility. We recommend you reach out to parents to organize a car pool.
Q: I've noticed this past year there were minor adjustments in the nutritional aspects of the school lunch program, but there is still a long way to go. Fort Benning schools have the worst lunches I've ever seen. They're unappealing, not fresh, and unhealthy. Why, in the Army, are we serving subpar nutrition to our children? And why aren't the lunches cooked fresh on site? McBride Elementary at least has a full kitchen.
A: From DoDEA: We understand your concerns and are addressing the food quality issues. Satellite kitchens were implemented several years ago as a cost-savings measure. As we build our new schools, we are planning on having standalone kitchens in every school. The school lunches are transported in heated containers and a log is maintained of the temperature of the food when it arrives. Whenever cooking in bulk, it is a challenge. We have just purchased a new warming unit for Loyd Elementary that is more efficient. We appreciate your concern and welcome any suggestions. Please talk with your school's principal if you become aware of lunch issues as they arise.
Q: I'm concerned that school policies with regard to children's safety in our school aren't being followed: checking all visitor's I.D.'s, keeping entrance and exit doors locked and dismissal procedures.
A: 100 percent of IDs are checked and doors are locked, with entry by using a bell located outside. Secretaries then let visitors inside. Dismissal procedures are in place.
Q: Does MWR offer a class to help write grant proposals?
A: From MWR: We do not.
Q: I have a question concerning speed limits in Harmony Church. When you enter the gate off of Highway 280/520 bypass and go down and make a left at the light on 8th Division, the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour and there is no OSD sign stating a reduced speed. Police are pulling people over for doing 25. The ticket is a 1408 and not monetary, but if you're going to pull people over then please put up a sign. If you come from the other direction, there is a sign but not when you come through the gate.
A: OSD signage is coordinated with DPW, Safety, DES and the local military leaders owning that piece of terrain. Please recommend changes through your chain of command, as they will have to support it.
Q: What are the schools' rules in regard to behavior problem and how are they enforced?
A: The DoDEA Behavior policies are posted on the individual school websites. The discipline policies are in the student/parent handbooks distributed at the beginning of the school year.
Q: Does Faith Middle School or the elementary schools have volunteer tutoring opportunities available? I have a highschooler who would like to volunteer.
A: Yes, there are volunteer tutoring opportunities available. Please call our main office at 706-545-0310.
Q: I think the safety on 10th Division Road needs to be addressed mostly concerning cyclists. Is there any way we can get a bike path built to make it safer? There is already a sign that states "No running or jogging" but it does not address cycling.
A: We have projects on the books to install more bike paths. The most recent addition is the section along Dixie Road/Puckett Parkway. Bicyclists must wear appropriate gear in accordance with MCoE Regulations 210-5 and 190-5. Current fiscal restraints prevent developing any more bike paths this year.
Q: Have there been any changes to school rezoning? I think it's rough on children who live in Patton Village, who have an hourlong bus ride to and from school.
A: Until the new school is built in Patton Village, students will have to be bused. The Patton Village students traveling to Wilson Elementary now go to Stowers Elementary. We revisit the district attendance each year and realign based on the housing availability and school capacity. Eventually, as our new schools come on line, all of our schools will be neighborhood schools.
Q: I would like to see each school have a certain "credit" or "cap" on the amount of equipment they can check out or borrow. For example, renting a 'tug-o-war' rope for free a few times a year, or a $100 cap toward equipment rental annually.
A: From DFMWR: We are not permitted to donate or offer preferential treatment to a select group (i.e. a private organization such as a PTO). We do exist as a benefit to the military community, with prices much lower than you'll find off-post. We hope to be an asset to you, but we do have to follow regulations.
Q: Is there a way to get able-bodied people to use the bridge over Custer Road when traveling between McGraw Village and McBride Elementary? It should not take 20-25 minutes to get from Patton Village to Loyd Elementary. Parents cross the street and tie up traffic. I feel that unless you are pregnant, injured or in a wheelchair, you should use the bridge.
A: We will research this and determine if signage is present telling people to use the flyover instead of walking across Custer Road.
Q: Is there any way we can get senior NCOs in the housing areas when MPs can't be there to make a correction? That would help with speeding, parking violations, cars abandoned for more than 30 days and other regulations regarding housing areas.
A: From DES: In accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, NCOs always have the right to conduct on-the-spot corrections. For particularly problematic persons, call the MPs by calling 911. Sometimes it may take a little longer but they are obligated to respond to all 911 calls.
Q: Why is it so hard to get school/sports physical appointments? They had no appointment available.
A: Call (706) 544-2273 to schedule an appointment for a school screening. Appointments are available Aug. 11 and Aug. 25 from 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Q: In Indianhead, where Wilson Elementary is located, there is a problem with speeders who live in the neighborhood speeding past the school. There needs to be a speed limit sign in front of the school. There are Soldiers assisting as crossing guards but some of these Soldiers do not act like they have a clue what they're doing. Can there be a school zone flashing light installed? Granted, I know the light wouldn't necessarily help either but it's a thought. Also, the middle section of one of the speed bumps is missing.
A: A traffic study at Wilson Elementary should address your issue with damaged speed bumps and a need for speed limit signs.
Q: Why can't there be speed bumps in all the neighborhoods on post? I've noticed the worst speeders in our housing area (Patton) are the giant moving trucks, off-post school buses and delivery vans that barrel down the street like finalists at Dayton. Can we get more speed bumps installed?
A: In order for emergency vehicles to meet response times, speed bumps must be limited. Speed bumps slow down our emergency vehicles and cause severe damage to their undercarriages. If you are observing moving trucks driving recklessly or too fast, most of them have company names and phone numbers painted on them. Take down the information, the plate number, date and time, and call the installation transportation officer at (706) 545-4788. You can also make a citizen's complaint to the company. Most companies would be upset that their drivers might injure someone and incur liability. Ask them to contact you back with the end result.
Q: At Martin Army Community Hospital, I was told I can no longer get an annual physical -- that they are only done every two years now -- and to call back when I'm sick. I've seen parents with small children who develop ear infactions, pink eye or strep throat told that their children can't be seen for up to three weeks out! This, in turn, overloads the emergency room with urgent but not emergent cases, or parents are forced to wait until 4:30 p.m. so that Tricare will cover taking them to an off-post urgent care center. Are these issues with appointments being addressed?
A: MACH is now offering same day 24 hour appointments in the Family Medical Home Clinics. If an appointment is not available, a control number will be given for an urgent care center in the community. If you have additional questions, please call (706) 544-3895, (706) 544-2788 or (706) 544-1817.
Q: I understand there are priorities in the hospital and at the post exchange pharmacies but I feel that if I'm in uniform, even if the prescription is not for me, I should get priority of some sort because I do have to get back to work. I was trying to fill my son's prescription today and was told that since the prescription was not for me, to take a seat and my number would be called.
A: We have encountered numerous comments on this ruling. The pharmacy is currently reviewing and revising their policy. The main concern is not to incur additional wait times for other beneficiaries.
Q: Since there are so many training units on Fort Benning, is it possible to get permission for children to have a day experiencing being a Soldier? I have tried in bringing this up in the past using our chain of command but I don't get an answer. Who should I go through to support something like this, the brigade commander?
A: Engage with your school's Partners In Education program. All schools on Fort Benning are partnered with a Fort Benning unit. You can also get in touch with the specific unit's chain of command or the unit's family readiness group and set up something through them. At Faith Middle School, the school leadership has spoken to the command in regard to taking students on learning trips to units, which allows them to experience military career opportunities. Students are working with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program on aspects of resiliency training and transitioning to high school.
Q: Now that there are more personnel here at Fort Benning, is there any way we can get a woodshop again? I know Fort Benning used to have one ten years ago but due to lack of usage it was closed.
A: From DFMWR: You're correct. We had one, but sadly, it closed for lack of interest. Be sure to voice your interest on the next Leisure Needs Survey. Stay tuned to www.benningmwr.com.
Q: Are there any rules about watching your children at the bus stop? We have quite a few kids at our stop, and only me and one other parent are there trying to wrangle all the kids. We have spoken to parents, the bus drivers and the school, and nothing is ever done.
A: MCoE Regulation 210-5 states, "Parents will take reasonable measures to supervise and safeguard children walking to and from school and awaiting school buses. Generally, children below second grade should be attended while walking to and from school and awaiting a school bus." You can remind your neighbors of this regulation or contact the Garrison with specific details if you believe the situation is out of hand, by calling (706) 545-1500 or (705) 545-6041.
Q: Will the football field at Doughboy Stadium be available for the Faith Middle School football and soccer teams home games this fall? If not, why?
A: From DFMWR: We've been told it will be available for some of the home games, but we've had no request for soccer. We use the youth soccer fields. Be sure to keep an eye out for the return of the Fort Benning Doughboys this fall.
Q: My son is moving from elementary school to Faith Middle School this year, and they are saying he isn't registered. I filled out paperwork back in April saying he would be attending the middle school this year. What do I need to do?
A: Please call (706) 545-0310 between 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and re-register your child. Please visit the website for a list of requirements to register www.am.dodea.edu/benning/faith/.
Q: If a student is being bullied on the bus, whose responsibility is it to handle the bullying issue --the bus company, drivers or the school? My child has had an ongoing problem with being bullied on the bus. And how many warnings and citations does it take to have the bully removed from the bus?
A: Bus bullying is not tolerated. DoDEA has a strict anti-bullying policy. Bullying needs to be reported to the school principal. All of our Fort Benning buses have cameras for reviewing problems. It will be addressed according to our discipline policy.
Q: I would love to see Loyd Elementary use their website more efficiently. The last principal letter is dated Aug. 1, 2010. This is a great tool for parents and schools.
A: We agree. The website is being updated by our webmaster. Look for the changes beginning this week at www.am.dodea.edu/benning/loyd/.
Q: Could we use Doughboy Stadium for shot-put and discus-throwing activities?
A: From DFMWR: We've been told it can't be used for shot-put or discus.
Q: Our child's school auto-dialed all three of our phone numbers to leave a message about this town hall meeting, which seems excessive. Why?
A: From DoDEA: To inform parents of the town meeting, we used the one-call system, which automatically reaches every telephone number that is registered to your child.
Q: Do returning elementary students need to re-register for the school year?
A: Yes, all returning elementary students must re-register.
Q: Is there a reason the schools focus heavily on the Lexile reading system versus Accelerated Reader? My older children loved reading toward AR point goals and earning Book It rewards. Last year was their first year at Benning schools and it was hard to understand the Lexile system. My son's interest in reading has dropped and he is intimidated by others higher Lexile scores.
A: Both AR and Lexile are excellent tools to assist students in improving their reading. Fort Benning's reading program is the program adopted for all of the DoDEA schools Armywide. Talk to your child's teacher once school starts about your concerns and work together to stimulate your son's interest in reading.
Q: Is there a way to widen the parking spaces at the commissary? The spaces are just too close together and drivers of big SUVs and trucks don't seem to care that they don't fit in a spot.
A: We can look at how widening the spaces would affect overall parking capacity. However, it's really a matter of personal responsibility and courtesy to others.
Q: If the school is going to put out a school supplies list, can they actually put what the kids really need? Last year, we bought what was on the list and at the end of the year we got nearly half of it back.
A: In May, we updated the school supply list for the district. Teachers provided input in the development of the list. We attempted to eliminate all but essential items from the list.
Q: I have lived in housing for 18 months. When I arrived I was told the exterior of our house would be renovated by the end of 2011. That didn't happen. Then in June of this year, I was left a notice that work would begin the following week and I needed to remove all of our furniture, grills, plants, etc. off the porch so they could do the work. I did as requested and nothing happened. In the 3 months since I have called housing. I don't know what else to do but write a letter of complaint. There is paint falling off my house, mold on the walls, and the drainers are disconnected from the side of the house causing mud and moss to grow. My door needs to be replaced due to security reasons and the window wood around the glass has mold growing in it.
A: From Villages of Benning: The pilot project for the exterior renovations is underway. As for your individual concerns inside your home, a member of our senior leadership will contact you tomorrow morning. Please send us a private message with your contact information.
Q: I'm having a hard time reserving hourly child care at any of the child development centers. I used to be able to reserve a spot two weeks in advance but now they tell me that I need to call the day of to see if there is availability because they are at capacity. Is this accurate?
A: We have reopened the child development center that was under renovations, so we have freed up a good number of hourly slots at 1st Division CDC. You can now return to reserving your spots two weeks in advance.
Q: When a Soldier is in training at Airborne School during Labor Day weekend, would they get days off during the holiday? And would it be three or four days?
A: Training and Doctrine Command policy states that Soldiers are afforded, at a minimum, the federal holiday and, if training permits, the training holiday also. It will depend on what part of Airborne training your Soldier will be in whether or not he's afforded a three or four-day holiday weekend for Labor Day.
Q: Who would I contact to bring up concerns with the timely treatment of patients at MACH?
A: Please call the Patient Advocate Office at (706) 544-3895, (706) 544-2788 or (706) 544-1817.
Q: Mainscape came by a few days ago and threw some green stuff on a random bare patch in our yard. I'm thankful for the attempt, but why the half job? I have no grass on one side of my yard, which they didn't address, and what they did put down, I can only hope some grass grows from. I've seen a lot of shortcuts lately. Who can address this?
A: Please contact Maria Poskey at the EMP office, (706) 685-3925.
Q: Do all the schools have a Facebook page?
A: Most of the Fort Benning schools have a Facebook page operated by their PTO organization, including Faith and Loyd. If yours doesn't, contact your PTO to determine if a page can be started.
Q: Are there any plans for the post to build a high school?
A: There are no plans at this time to build a high school on the installation. The decision to add additional grade levels is made at the Pentagon level.
Q: Regarding housing in Indianhead, I do not agree with how they write you a violation and put it on your door without knocking or ringing or doorbell. I have three doors and do not often use the front door so if I receive a violation I may not see it for a few days. They give you a two-day timeframe to fix whatever the violation is for but how are you supposed to fix it if you don't know until it's too late? They should at least knock.
A: From Village of Benning: That's a fair request, we will make the change.
Q: McGraw Village gets the post newspaper, The Bayonet, delivered to their door. Why don't we have that here in Indianhead? I haven't seen a paper delivered since November. I've also heard that people are coming by and taking them off others' yards.
A: Post housing residents should receive The Bayonet delivered to their doorstep every Wednesday. Please contact the Ledger-Enquirer and request to speak with their circulation desk, which handles distribution, at (706) 324-5526. If the problem is not corrected by the circulation desk manager by the following Wednesday delivery, send an email with the subject line "Bayonet delivery" to the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's Note: Questions have been edited for grammar, clarification and content, and condensed when multiple commentators asked questions regarding a specific topic. Identifying information has been removed for operational security.