Paul Eaton, a retired Army major general, had seven schools under his watch when he was the commanding general at Fort Benning, Ga. He said that because the military had more sway over parents than an ordinary school system would, the military schools have higher family participation rates. The schools, he said, are a natural part of life on American military bases.
“What Trump has done, to take money from the Department of Defense school system for this artifice called a southern wall, to deny new school construction, is just crazy,” he said.
At Fort Campbell, Mahaffey Middle School, around 40 years old, has for more than a decade been in want of deep renovations. As far back as 2007, the Senate Armed Services Committee was hearing testimony from local teachers that the school needed help. “Garbage cans catch water from a leaking room while a broken heating and air-conditioning system produces sauna-like conditions in some classrooms, while other classes have no heat,” Misti K. Stevens, then a member of the Military Child Education Coalition, said in written testimony.
The problems persist today, Fort Campbell service members said. The air-conditioning system at the school is pieced together, they said, and classrooms often run too hot or too cold.
Two years ago the base’s other middle school, Wassom Middle School, shut down, and those students were all sent to Mahaffey, nearly doubling the size of the student body. Teachers and parents were told that this would be a stopgap measure while a new, unified Fort Campbell Middle School would be housed in the old Fort Campbell High School, which would be renovated. The base’s high school students moved to the new Fort Campbell High School last year.
Now, the stay at Mahaffey is extended indefinitely.
“This is like a gut punch to this faculty,” said Venita Garnett, the president of the Fort Campbell Education Association, the local teachers’ union. “And who is carrying the burden of so many years of war? It’s these schoolchildren.”
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