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Plans to replace Joan K. Mendel Elementary School at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo have been delayed at least five years due to the project’s “size and executability concurrent with other school projects,” according to DODEA-Pacific spokeswoman Miranda Ferguson.

Plans to replace Joan K. Mendel Elementary School at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo have been delayed at least five years due to the project’s “size and executability concurrent with other school projects,” according to DODEA-Pacific spokeswoman Miranda Ferguson. (Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Hundreds of millions of dollars in construction is underway or planned to upgrade schools on overseas U.S. military bases in the Pacific, according to Department of Defense Education Activity officials.

Major projects underway in Japan include a $150 million replacement for Nile C. Kinnick High School at Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo and the $95 million replacement of Bechtel Elementary School at Camp McTureous on Okinawa, DODEA Pacific chief of staff Todd Schlitz told Stars and Stripes by phone July 28.

A $175 million replacement for Kubasaki High School on Camp Foster, Okinawa, is in the design phase, he said. Work has also started on a new $20 million DODEA Pacific East District Superintendent Office at Yokota.

Plans to replace Joan K. Mendel Elementary School at Yokota have been delayed at least five years due to the project’s “size and executability concurrent with other school projects,” although they will be reviewed yearly, DODEA Pacific spokeswoman Miranda Ferguson said by email June 22.

Over the past five years, DODEA has completed projects to build, renovate or add on to Zama Middle-High School, Sasebo Elementary School, Kadena Elementary and High schools, Bob Hope Elementary School, Killin Elementary School, E.J. King Middle School, Edgren Middle School, Yokota High School and Zukeran Elementary School, Schlitz said.

New school construction in the Pacific is creating “21st century schools” to prepare students for tech-focused jobs, Corey Comegys, DODEA Pacific’s chief of facilities, said on the phone call with Schlitz.

“It gives the schools a lot of flexibility in how they operate, and it allows flexibility in the future,” he said.

DODEA Pacific has approximately $126 million in projects in the initial planning and feasibility stages for the Kanto region, which encompasses bases in and near Tokyo, Comegys said. Another $38 million in projects are in the initial planning and feasibility stages at Osan Air Base, South Korea.

Two host nation-financed projects include the approximately $58 million Humphreys East Elementary School in South Korea and the approximately $54 million replacement of Lester Middle School on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Schlitz said.

The DODEA Pacific region encompasses 45 schools in Japan, including Okinawa, and in South Korea and Guam. Schools in the region are, on average, 22 years old, Ferguson said. In the new schools, everything from the buildings to the furniture supports collaboration between teachers, students and the community, she said.

The 21st century schools include the most modern educational designs, Schlitz said.

“They are really designed to support the educational needs of our kids … shared spaces, open classrooms, areas to collaborate,” he said. “It is a testimony to DODEA and the Department of Defense in how we are investing in our schools and students.”

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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