The Defense Department has awarded a Guam construction firm a $29.2 million contract to design and build a new high school at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam compound.

Dick Pacific Construction Co. Ltd. also has the option to design and build a $38.4 million elementary and middle school near Lockwood Housing on U.S. Naval Base Guam.

Both schools serve the island’s active-duty military dependents.

Naval Base Guam officials announced the contract award this week.

“Neither building the schools are currently in was built to be a school,” said base spokesman Petty Officer 2nd Class Benjamin Keller. “The high school is in a former operations office building and currently McCool elementary is housed in what used to be barracks. They are rather old.”

Keller said he did not know when construction was to begin but the new high school is supposed to be ready for the 2007-08 school year’s opening day.

The current high school on Nimitz Hill once was headquarters for Commander Naval Forces Marianas, now located on Naval Base Guam. It’s the only high school on the island for military dependents in grades nine through 12. Currently, 492 students are enrolled.

About 800 students in kindergarten through eighth grade currently attend Commander William C. McCool Elementary/Middle School next to Naval Base Guam in Santa Rita.

Dick Pacific has 180 days to decide whether to design and build the new McCool. If the option is picked up, the school is scheduled to open its doors in time for the 2008-09 school year, Keller said.

Guam High and McCool are part of Department of Defense Education Activity Guam.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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