By Jennifer Hartwig, 3rd IDAugust 9, 2011
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga., Aug. 9, 2011 -- As all good collaborations should be, the partnership between Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System was celebrated, Aug. 8, with the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Pulaski Elementary School -- a public school built on Department of Defense land on Hunter Army Airfield.
“This is a symbol of the symbiotic relationship between Hunter Army Airfield and the City of Savannah that has been nurtured, cared for and supported for so many years,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Abrams, the 3rd Infantry Division commanding general. “We can’t do our mission here without the unconditional support and the untiring support of our community -- we have to work as one.”
The new Pulaski Elementary School, which was formerly located on Montgomery Street in Savannah right outside of Hunter’s main gate, was referred to as a “win-win” by many during the ceremony.
“Army kids are going to get an opportunity to go to school in a first-class facility that’s already got first-class faculty and now they have a facility that is commensurate with the sacrifices that those Army kids make in support of their Soldier parent,” said Abrams. “And all of the kids who live inside the catchment area for this school, they’re going to have an opportunity to be educated in a first-class facility. What a gift that they’re going to have.”
The partnership theme was reiterated by Thomas Lockamy, the superintendent of Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, or SCCPSS, who has a long career of working in schools with military children, including teaching positions at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and in Norfolk, Va.
“What a wonderful partnership and family we have marrying together to educate our children in this community,” said Lockamy. “With this school and the community coming together, this school is going to lead the pack.”
About 50 percent of the students enrolled at Pulaski Elementary have at least one parent in the military, and all elementary-school-aged children living on Hunter Army Airfield are zoned to attend the school. The school, though located on Hunter property off Perimeter Road across from the New Savannah housing area, does not have car access onto the installation.
The only access between the two is an eight-foot-wide walking gate located 200 yards from the school’s front entrance, which will be manned by a security guard during school hours, and locked during non-school hours.
The plans for the school began in 2008, when the SCCPSS proposed building on federal property - something that doesn’t happen often.
“This is one of the few new schools in the nation that has been built with a government partnership with the local school district,” said School Board President Joe Buck. “We were told that nowadays the federal government didn’t build schools - public schools - on [military installations]. But because of leadership here on the [installation] and because of the leadership of the superintendent and the [school system] we said ‘why not?’”
The proposal was accepted in 2009, the land was officially leased -- for 50 years -- in August 2010 and ground was broken, Aug. 24, 2010.
The importance of the partnership between the community and the military was obvious by just looking around the crowd at the ribbon cutting.
“Look around and look at the uniforms that you see here - that’s how important it is,” said Abrams. “We’ve got every leader, every senior leader from the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield present, because this is how important we feel the education of our kids is, as well as our partnership with the City of Savannah.”
For one Hunter leader in particular, the opening of the school has close ties to his family. Lt. Col. Ed Kovaleski, the Hunter garrison commander, will send all three of his children to Pulaski for the 2011-2012 school year.
“[My wife] Marcie and I are excited and grateful for the opportunity for our three children to attend this state-of-the-art school,” he said. “The Pulaski Elementary School is a tremendous opportunity for both the children on Hunter Army Airfield and in our local community.”
The 89,762 square-foot school has 38 classrooms for children pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, as well as music and art classrooms and a computer/technology lab. There is an 8,000 square-foot physical education facility and a 7,700 square-foot media center for the 600 children who will attend the school, come Aug. 22 when Chatham County schools open for the 2011-2012 school year.