By Tammy Sharp

February 28, 2022

LEESVILLE, LA.–According to Tim Ward, finance director of the Vernon Parish School District, construction has begun on a $7.5 million project to develop technology-enhanced learning centers at five Vernon Parish schools. 

In the fall of 2020, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the U.S. Department of Defense had awarded Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP) funds to build the centers at schools that serve thousands of families supported by the U.S. Army’s Fort Polk.

“There has been work done on all 5 campuses within the project,” said Ward. 

A pilot program, DCIP addresses quality of life enhancements in military communities. 

The Campus Connections and Learning Spaces project will provide children of military and civilian families with state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor learning environments that feature wireless communications, digital displays and interactive learning tools.

Louisiana Economic Development provided a 10 percent match for the Department of Defense award, which will enhance Leesville High, Leesville Junior High, Pickering High, Pickering Elementary and Vernon Middle schools.

Ward said that Leesville High School has the two pads in place for the technology and the STEAM building. STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The contractor is waiting on delivery of the building materials which is scheduled for early March, Ward added. 

Leesville Junior High has the two pads in place for the technology and the STEAM building as well and is awaiting the delivery of building materials. Also the pad has been poured for the outdoor learning center at the Junior High.

Dirt work has begun at Vernon Middle School and at Pickering High and Pickering Elementary for their pads for the two buildings. Also preliminary work on the access road for parent dropoff has started at Vernon Middle School.

Security cameras have been installed at all five locations and the sign for Leesville Junior High has been ordered.

The $7.5 million Campus Connections and Learning Project is the most significant Fort Polk education investment since the establishment of Parkway Elementary. That $20 million school replaced South Polk Elementary and opened in 2016 following a $16 million commitment by the Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment, a $3 million match from the Vernon Parish School Board and $1 million from the State of Louisiana.