By Joe Bela
AFIMSC Public Affairs
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – After more than a year of collaboration between the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, other Defense Department agencies and local leaders, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., will soon be home to a new community charter school.
A ground-breaking ceremony for the new LEARN D.C. Charter School in late April marked the beginning of construction for the school, which opens this fall and will allow student enrollment for both military families on the installation and civilian families in the neighboring community.
More than 50 experts from multiple agencies worked with the Air Force District of Washington, 11th Wing and local government and academic leaders in the community to bring the first school of its kind to JBAB and the region. The agencies included AFIMSC’s Detachment 5 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and AFIMSC Installation Support Directorate, Air Force Civil Engineer Center and Air Force Services Center at Joint Base-Lackland, Texas.
The charter school will enroll students on pre-kindergarten 3 through first grade beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, and then adding one grade every school year up to the eighth grade.
A multitude of environmental requirements had to be met before a lease agreement could be executed and construction could start. AFCEC’s environmental team of experts were further challenged when it was determined that, based on safety and logistics, an alternative site was better suited for the school.
To address any potential environmental impact imposed by selecting a new site, the team conducted a supplemental assessment. For construction to begin and the school to open on time, all environmental requirements needed to be met and a Finding of No Significant Impact signed by the JBAB wing commander. This was accomplished by January and in the same month the Air Force signed a 25-year lease agreement allowing the LEARN D.C. Charter School to operate on JBAB. The school will be located on 5.7 acres in the heart of JBAB’s family housing area.
“Our team here in San Antonio and teammates in the Pentagon and the Washington District moved some pretty impressive mountains to get through some environmental requirements and lease package challenges that popped up at the eleventh hour, and very likely could have derailed the initiative or set it back a year or more,” said AFCEC Commander Maj. Gen. John Allen. “I can’t say enough about what they were able to do. This is a great example of the team leaning really far forward to help commanders in the field.”
Kat Keller-Kratzer, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy commander, whose team helped coordinate construction, environmental and real estate requirements for the charter school, said the site is accessible for base children, who will make up 50 percent of the student body, and children coming from the surrounding D.C. neighborhoods.
“Since the school is on the base, we are working on a memorandum of agreement that will include access protocols to ensure non-DoD families have the same access to this high-quality education opportunity,” she said. “I’ve been working this project since 2016 when I came to JBAB. The impact it will have on the quality of life of our military and D.C. families is very dear to my heart. I’m thrilled to see such diverse sections of the Air Force coming together to make this school a reality.”