WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 16, 2010) -- Soldiers will have three new Department of Defense schools to send their children to starting this month, and $3.7 billion has been slated for school construction projects through 2016.

The Fort Campbell Elementary School in Kentucky, Camp Casey Elementary and Middle School in South Korea, and Vicenza Elementary and Middle School in Italy, are due to open as the result of an initiative that will eventually modernize 134 schools worldwide.

Renovations at Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Stewart, Ga., and Fort Bragg, N.C., are also planned.

The funds for renovations and new construction throughout DoD Education Activity were requested because many of the current educational facilities were built during the 1950s with an expected shelf life of about 45 years, a deadline long passed.

"It's like going to the same school as your grandparents," said Mike Smiley, chief of the facilities division at DoDEA. "These facilities have exceeded their life expectancy."

Using the DoDEA's quality rating scale from one to four -- one being new construction and four being failing and requiring replacement -- 70 percent of DoD schools are currently rated as being "poor" or "failing." During the multi-year construction initiative, the goal is to bring almost all of DoD's schools to the satisfactory level, Smiley explained.

While many of the facilities are outdated, DoDEA officials maintain that they are safe and sufficient for current use -- some just need additions or cosmetic upgrades.

"We make sure that the classrooms are safe and learning is not hindered," said Russ Roberts, chief of DoDEA's logistics division.

Roberts estimates that DoDEA facilities are on par with the national public school average -- many civilian-run schools need updating too.

In Fiscal Year 2011 $439 million is planned for renovations and construction for DoD schools. This includes three schools in Germany: a new high school in Kaiserslautern, a new kitchen and stage area in Wiesbaden and a new elementary school in BAfAPblingen at Panzer Barracks.

The bulk of DoDEA construction is done during the summer months, Roberts explained, to disrupt as little classroom time as possible.

"We're excited for the education program to get the facilities they deserve," said Roberts.

About 85,000 children attend 194 DoD schools worldwide.