An artist's rendering of Bechtel Elementary, a Department of Defense Education Activity school on Okinawa that's receiving a $125 million facelift.

An artist's rendering of Bechtel Elementary, a Department of Defense Education Activity school on Okinawa that's receiving a $125 million facelift. (DODEA)

CAMP MCTUREOUS, Okinawa — A Tokyo construction firm won a $125 million contract last month to update a Defense Department school on Okinawa based on a state-of-the-art design.

Nishimatsu Construction Co. Ltd. will start renovations and new construction for Bechtel Elementary on Marine Corps base Camp McTureous sometime this fall, Miranda Ferguson, spokeswoman for Department of Defense Education Activity-Pacific, said by email Tuesday.

The project, expected to take three years, will make Bechtel the island’s fifth “21st Century school,” after Bob Hope and Kadena elementary schools on Kadena Air Base and Killin and Zukeran schools on Camp Foster, she said.

As part of a decade-old building campaign, DODEA has built and renovated schools according to the same concept at several other bases in the Pacific and Europe.

The refurbished Bechtel will feature collaborative common areas and new furnishings, hallmarks of the 21st Century initiative, as well as playground equipment upgrades.

The 21st Century school design is meant to prepare students for the tech-focused jobs of the future. They feature classrooms without walls called “neighborhoods,” collaborative teaching and data-driven instruction.

“The reconstruction and re-imagining of Bechtel Elementary School shows a steadfast commitment to the development and well-being of our military families here on Okinawa,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, commander of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, said in a DODEA news release Sept. 8. “This is more than a construction project; it’s a symbol of our dedication to building a brighter future for the generations that will follow in our footsteps.”

Nishimatsu received the contract Aug. 30 for approximately 81,000 square feet of new construction and to renovate 68,094 square feet of existing space, according to the release. Artist renderings show a modern façade, colorful assembly areas and warm, open classrooms, marked by carpets and comfortable furniture.

DODEA opted for a partial demolition and renovation instead of a complete overhaul of the school to meet budget and time constraints, Ferguson said.

Completely demolishing the school would have added a year to the project.

Bechtel, founded in 1987, serves approximately 400 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and provides preschool services for children with disabilities, Ferguson said. The students come from Camps Courtney and McTureous and nearby off-base residences.

Students in grades one through five have been attending class at Ryukyu Middle School on Kadena since the school year began in August, Ferguson said. Kindergarteners, preschoolers with disabilities and Sure Start students are attending Kadena Elementary.

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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