Senator gets look at JBLM facilities
Senator Patty Murray got a look at a few new educational facilities on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Feb. 16 as she toured Evergreen Elementary School and the JBLM Center for Autism Resources, Education and Services.
“I’ve been hearing about this center and how wonderful it is, and I’ve been following the school forever,” Murray said, as she concluded a tour of the facilities.
Evergreen Elementary School opened in April 2017 and was built through a $40.3 million Department of Defense grant. It was the sixth and final elementary school to be built on JBLM funded by, initially, the Defense Appropriations Act of 2011 and subsequent 2015 Act.
Murray, along with other local lawmakers — including U.S. Rep. Denny Heck and former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks — helped push for passage of those acts to secure funding for schools on military bases. She spoke of the value of taking care of military children.
“This is the most important thing, and we know it’s the right thing to do — to care for our service member’s families so they can do their jobs,” Murray said.
Evergreen not only offers a variety of offices and cutting-edge technology in the classroom for the 480 children enrolled at the school; it also offers many rooms for special needs classes, including for children with severe physical disabilities. Evergreen has a capacity for 750 children.
“The parents must feel such a sense of relief when they see this,” Murray said as she walked with Clover Park School District staff and JBLM officials through the special education classrooms.
The school’s close proximity to Madigan Army Medical Center also is a plus, said Col. William Percival, JBLM deputy garrison commander and commander of the 627th Air Base Group.
“This is unique; it’s fantastic,” Percival said.
Murray also was impressed, she said, with the school’s security systems, which includes the ability to lock down the facility and each class, with coded key fobs for teachers.
“With so many school shootings (recently), this is great,” she said. “It’s so bad we have to think this way, but I’m so glad you are.”
Deborah LeBeau, Clover Park Schools superintendent, and Rick Ring, school district administrator for business services and capital projects, led the Evergreen tour and also took the opportunity to ask Murray her thoughts on current federal budget talks and how that will impact local schools.
Murray and her staff also stopped at JBLM CARES for a tour of that facility, where Col. Michael Place, Madigan Army Medical Center commander, was on hand with JBLM CARES staff.
Place talked about the opening of the CARES facility in 2017 and JBLM’s sense of community in making the center a success.
Lieutenant Colonel (Dr.) Eric Flake, program director of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at Madigan, said typically, 10 new diagnoses of autism are made at JBLM every month.
There are currently more than 1,000 children with autism on the installation, according to information previously released by Madigan.
Although there were no classes at schools on the installation Feb. 16, a few children and their parents drifted into JBLM CARES for appointments and therapy while Murray was visiting the center.
Murray waved and smiled at 3-year-old Michael Sullivan, as the child snuggled against his mother, Amanda Sullivan, an Army spouse.
The family recently moved to JBLM from Fort Stewart, Ga. Sullivan said Michael has made significant improvement in his communication skills in the three months he has been working with staff at CARES.
“He went from high pitched, repeated yells to signing and speaking a little, which is much easier to understand,” she said.
“It’s incredible; I really, really am impressed,” Murray said, after watching Michael with his speech and occupational therapists and touring other rooms in the facility. “I am just so impressed with the collaboration and everyone working together.” Everyone is working together for the good of the kids and the families.”