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Workers head to the site of a $29.5 million high school for the Department of Defense school system on the base that houses U.S. Naval Hospital, Guam. The new school, to open in July 2007, will hold 450 students, although it could be expanded for 660.

Workers head to the site of a $29.5 million high school for the Department of Defense school system on the base that houses U.S. Naval Hospital, Guam. The new school, to open in July 2007, will hold 450 students, although it could be expanded for 660. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

Workers head to the site of a $29.5 million high school for the Department of Defense school system on the base that houses U.S. Naval Hospital, Guam. The new school, to open in July 2007, will hold 450 students, although it could be expanded for 660.

Workers head to the site of a $29.5 million high school for the Department of Defense school system on the base that houses U.S. Naval Hospital, Guam. The new school, to open in July 2007, will hold 450 students, although it could be expanded for 660. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

The current Guam High School sits atop Nimitz Hill, an off-base site that looks out over the Philippines Sea.

The current Guam High School sits atop Nimitz Hill, an off-base site that looks out over the Philippines Sea. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

U.S. NAVAL HOSPITAL, GUAM — Like most other military and Guam governmental agencies, Guam’s military school system awaits details to begin planning the major construction and staffing increases needed as 8,000 Marines come to the island.

But already Department of Defense Education Activity leaders are working with the military to discuss site planning, faculty hiring and other long-range changes needed to accommodate the Marines and the estimated 9,000 family members slated to move from Okinawa beginning in 2008.

“We will get considerably larger,” said Michael Diekmann, superintendent, Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools in Guam. “We could possibly double in size.”

The school system now has about 2,500 students, 250 teachers and 50 workers. Its annual $29 million budget supports children from about 6,500 military- linked families here.

Two of the four military schools are off base, a product of a 1997 change to give military families an alternative to Guam public schools. Plans to replace them with on-base campuses were well under way before the Marines’ move was announced.

A $29.5 million high school, being built near the naval hospital, is to open in July 2007. A $40 million elementary school, planned for Guam Naval Base, is to replace McCool Elementary School, which currently is outside the main Navy base. That school still is in the bidding process, but officials hope to open it by summer 2008, Diekmann said.

Those projects are to accommodate current enrollment needs, about 800 in kindergarten through eighth grade at McCool and 450 in ninth through 12th grades at Guam High School, he said.

But the schools, near the Navy’s main base on west-central Guam, are being built with enough common-area space — libraries, cafeterias, labs — that each can expand by adding classrooms, he said. The high school could increase 47 percent to 660 students. McCool could grow 38 percent to 1,100 students.

However, Diekmann added, whether those schools will need to expand is unclear.

The military has said it plans to use its existing footprint on Guam. Rear Adm. Charles “Joe” Leidig, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas in Guam, has said the Marines likely will be based at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Finegayan, in northern Guam near Andersen Air Force Base.

Andersen already has two new schools, a $50 million project completed five years ago for grades pre-K through 8. They house 1,350 students but could expand to 1,600, officials said.

After approval, a school construction project takes about 15 months, Diekmann said. Marines are expected to move to Guam gradually, from 2008 to 2014.

Diekmann also has been working with military officials about Marine housing-area layouts.

Parents and students can benefit from a plan that puts school buildings in a central area, rather than enclosed within either enlisted or officer housing, said Diekmann, who also has been a superintendent for elementary and secondary Defense Department schools in Japan and Kentucky.

Diekmann said he hopes to avoid any suggestion that students and parents can begin to feel neglected or privileged because of their places on base. He said military planners appear open to the idea.

Diekmann also said he’s updated as much as possible about the buildup. “They keep us in the loop,” he said. “I have complete confidence we’ll be able to meet the needs.”

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