FORT KNOX, Kentucky - Fort Knox middle and high school students will be discovering a shared 21st Century school concept when classes begin in the fall.

The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity's website provides descriptions of the concept in an article titled "DoDEA21: Teach, Learn, Lead" (https://content.dodea.edu/teach_learn/professional_development/21/facilities.html). According to the article, "This is a paradigm shift in methodology; we are changing the way teachers teach and students learn, using a myriad of technological tools (e.g., one-to-one laptops, tablets, and hand-held devices)."

"All DODEA schools teach the 21st Century Teaching and Learning skills, but not every installation has a DODEA [21st Century] facility," said Jade Fulce, DODEA public affairs officer. "All our schools are able to facilitate 21st Century Learning, but [Fort Knox] will be able to fully integrate the facility into the 21st Century Teaching and Learning concept by using the facility as a teaching tool."

The new concept is designed to better prepare students for the future.

"We are transitioning students into college and the workforce," said Dr. Youlanda Washington, Kentucky community superintendent for the Department of Defense Education Activity Americas' Southeast District. "They're going to be working in a more collaborative and innovative culture, and we are preparing them for the transition into the real world."

Construction on the $23.3 million annex at Fort Knox High School is slated for completion at the beginning of May. Middle schoolers and high schoolers will then share existing and new facilities.

According to Ryan, once the two facilities are combined, they will have one cafeteria and one gymnasium between them. The existing gym from the old Pierce Elementary School will be refurbished into a performing arts center.

The annex connects the current high school cafeteria to the old Pierce Elementary School gym, and to the current high school science lab wing to create one contiguous building.

According to DODEA, one of the benefits of the new concept will be the modularity of classroom space.

"With a 21st Century Learning facility, the classroom is adaptable and flexible," Fulce said. "If two classrooms want to merge, we have what's called 'scalable size' classrooms, which open that space to allow for two classes or four classes so students and teachers may collaborate."

Some parents have expressed concerns about the middle and high school students sharing spaces, but according to Washington, the new layout will have middle schoolers housed on a different floor from the high schoolers.

"A parent shared a concern that their child would share a bathroom with older students, but there will be no need because they'll have their own restrooms on their own floor," Washington said. "There would be no need for students to go to another floor unless for a specific purpose. Services like tutoring and afterschool activities will be offered to both middle schoolers and high schoolers."

Fulce explained the facility allows for the expansion of 21st century skills that students will need to develop in order to live, learn and thrive in a 21st century environment and to succeed in college and careers.

"These facilities allow us to adapt and change in a rapidly changing world," said Fulce. "The architectural design - the lights, the colors, the design, the different functional spaces - allow for this collaboration, and we're able to easily adapt the classroom to different learning and teaching styles."