FORT POLK, La. — Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal visited Northwestern State University’s Fort Polk campus Friday and, along with Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commander, announced the construction of a new $20 million South Polk Elementary School for more than 800 children of military Families.
The new school, for first through fourth graders, will be on U.S. Army property along La. 467, more than two miles north of the current school, but it will offer more convenience outside the controlled-access part of the post.
The school announcement follows Jindal’s 2011 announcement of $25 million in infrastructure projects to develop the area adjacent to Fort Polk. Collectively, the new school, road, water and wastewater improvements will stimulate the economy in a development district along La. 467 and a new parkway that will be built to connect with La. 28.
“Today we are together to mark another great step forward,” said Jindal, who lauded the installation as being “important to the entire state.”
“Fort Polk is the second largest employer in Louisiana,” he said. “The installation pumps 1.6 billion dollars into our state’s economy each year. The 10,145 military members stationed at the post and 6,309 civilian employees collectively represent Louisiana’s biggest employer outside state government. State and local investments in public works and schools will help generate the off-post housing and services Fort Polk needs to thrive.”
Because of its economic footprint, said Jindal, “the installation is one of our state’s most treasured assets. It plays a critical role in training those men and women who serve our country, who run towards danger, not away from it so that we can be safe.”
“This is a partnership in every sense of the word on local, state and federal levels,” Jindal continued. “We are all working together to insure that the great men and women here have the resources they need. This school will help prepare the children of our military Families for jobs in the 21st century workforce and will be a landmark facility to meet the early education needs of a growing Fort Polk.”
According to Jindal, Fort Polk qualified for this investment because it ranked high in the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment’s priority list for schools that are over capacity and in need of replacement. The school is only the first step, along with the construction of the veteran’s hospital and cemetery, in developing the area around La. Hwy 467.
“With projects like this, we’re continuing our work to make Louisiana the best place in the world to live, raise a Family and find a rewarding career,” he said.
Jindal tipped his hat to Chinn for “his leadership, his enthusiasm and his dedication to ensure that Fort Polk has all of the resources and support it needs to be the Army’s best post. He’s been very dedicated to improving his Soldiers’ and community’s quality of life,” said Jindal.
Above all, “this wouldn’t have happened without great local and community partnership,” he said.
Chinn spoke of the commitment from the state that the school project represents.
“Louisiana really stepped up to the plate to make the dream of a better education a reality for the parents and children of Vernon Parish and Fort Polk. This commitment from the state represents the final cobblestone of a long road of planning for what will ultimately be a new economic zone in Leesville,” he said.
He acknowledged the Vernon Parish Police Jury, the Vernon Parish School Board, the City of Leesville, Louisiana Economic Development and Fort Polk Progress.
“It’s your energy and dedication to reach this common goal to benefit the families of Vernon Parish and Fort Polk in ways you can only imagine in the years to come (that has made this possible).
“Education has been the key that will unlock this powerful vision we have to anchor this development zone,” he said.
“The new school will attract new Families to this area, which will, in turn, attract developers and in the fullness of time, attract businesses also,” said Chinn. “In the end, the quality of life for both civilians and military will improve and this improved quality of life, combined with over a $1 billion investment the Department of Defense has made in Fort Polk since 2005, will become self sustaining and keep this area vibrant.”