FORT KNOX, Ky. – The Department of Defense Education Activity celebrated the start of its 75th year of educating military-connected children Oct. 14.
While the establishment of a unified U.S. military-run education system didn’t occur until 1946, the history of learning at Fort Knox schools dates far earlier – when the Army first acquired the town of Stithton for the establishment of Camp Knox.
“In September 1919, a public school opened on post for the children of Camp Knox and surrounding communities,” said Fort Knox Historic Preservation Specialist Matthew Rector. “By November 1919, 140 students were enrolled.”
A few years later, Rector said the post became a permanent training camp, thus officially establishing the Fort Knox Dependent School system. He said construction began on a new school building in 1939 after additional troops were transferred to the installation. It was activated July 15, 1941 and later named Briscoe Hall for Col. N. Butler Briscoe – a garrison commander during World War II.
“It remains the oldest built school at Fort Knox,” said Rector, “and is now used by colleges and universities as part of the Army’s Continuing Education System.”
Following the end of WWII, Rector said the military began establishing schools specifically for the children of service members. He said the Army initially spearheaded the efforts overseas, with other military branches soon following – and the Department of Defense school system was born.
Today, DoDEA reports it has more than 60,000 military-connected children of all ages worldwide enrolled in its fully U.S. accredited schools, which are comprised of over 8,000 educators. According to DoDEA director Tom Brady, one thing has remained constant the past 75 years.
“While the world has changed dramatically since our system began, the spirit of our teachers and administrators is the same now as it was then – infused to the core with determination and innovation. DoDEA’s core mission remains the same,” said Brady.
Fort Knox is currently home to four DoDEA schools: Van Voorhis Elementary, Kingsolver Elementary, Scott Intermediate and Fort Knox Middle High School. Several other school buildings have come and gone over the system’s many years, oftentimes named in honor of graduates and administrators.
Rector said Crittenberger – named in memory of a former student killed in WWII – was dedicated in 1952 and still stands today, though no longer serves as a school. Kingsolver takes its name from the first superintendent at Fort Knox, who held the position from 1941 to 1954.
According to Rector, the schools at Fort Knox hold a particularly distinguished place in DoDEA history.
A 1949 article in the Courier-Journal reported Fort Knox schools were the first in the state of Kentucky to be racially integrated, years ahead of many of its non-military counterparts.
This year, Fort Knox Community Schools enrolled approximately 1,550 students. Future elementary students will have the opportunity to attend a brand new facility, with the replacement for Van Voorhis expected to open for the 2025 school year.
Over the past 75 years, DoDEA reports more than 15 million military-connected children have passed through the system’s many school doors. On average, its students’ scale scores ranged from 10 to 18 percentage points higher than corresponding national average.
Brady said the system’s focus on both teaching and learning, past and present, has better enabled Soldiers to make lasting contributions to the nation’s defense knowing their children are receiving a quality education.
“As a contributing partner and a key quality of life component within the communities we serve,” said Brady, “DoDEA remains committed to providing the best education and care for service members and their Families.”