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Posted 5/1/2012

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By Erickson Barnes
Middle East District

WINCHESTER, Va. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District recently oversaw construction of a school expansion and the completion of two school renovations in Lebanon.

The humanitarian assistance projects were funded by the Department of Defense in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy's Office of Defense Cooperation for a total of $1.19 million, and undertaken in cooperation with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the Lebanese Armed Forces.

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the $698,000 expansion of the Haret Sakhr School. Started in June 2010, the project included construction of a new three-story building that houses a conference hall, library, computer lab, and multi-purpose room. Previously, the school had to restrict student enrollment due to lack of space. The community now has safe and adequate facilities to accommodate all its children, according to a U.S. embassy press release.

Renovation of the Sin El Fil School in Mount Lebanon was valued at $262,000 and included construction of a steel roof structure with tiling; a new kitchen and restrooms; a new generator, an electrical system and lighting; rehabilitation or replacement of windows, doors and tiling; external and internal painting; insulation; and application of security devices on windows and doors. It is the only elementary school in the community, serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the upgrade expands the school's capacity from about 150 students to 225.

"We are very proud to have been able to provide assistance to your school -- to help improve the facilities that benefit your sons and daughters every day," said Connelly during a speech at the school's opening ceremony.

Renovation of the Almat School was valued at $230,388 and included construction of a new vehicle ramp, metal shed, entrance lobby and staircase. New walls and finishes on the basement level, a new kitchen, new restrooms, and new plumbing, heating and electrical systems were also added. The facility was painted and waterproofed, and security devices were placed on windows and doors.

"These projects really foster good will with the people," said Tom Jackson, a construction representative for the Middle East District. "All of the children attending these schools will see the plaques featuring the U.S. and Lebanese flags side-by-side. It shows them that the two countries can and do work together for good."

The plaque at the Haret Sakher School reads: "This center is dedicated to the people of Lebanon and reflects a strong partnership between the Lebanese and American People."

"Beyond the obvious benefit to the local residents, [humanitarian assistance] projects also present U.S. personnel the opportunity to open up a dialogue with government officials in these communities," added Jackson.

The Middle East District awarded the contract to Construction Services Company of Lebanon, and work was overseen by personnel from the district's Lebanon Resident Office and Egypt Area Office.

The United States is committed to supporting the government of Lebanon, its people, and its institutions. According to the embassy, these projects complement a five-year, $75 million joint initiative between the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the U.S. Agency for International Development that targets Lebanon's public schools to enhance student achievement through school rehabilitation, provision of equipment, teacher and leadership training, extracurricular activities, and community engagement in local public schools.