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STARBASE LA., EXPANDS ITS MISSION

Mooringsport Elementary students, Tyler Castie and Destiney Caskey, learn how to use a Global Positioning System device Tuesday, Sept. 12, at STARBASE La.’s satellite classroom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sherri Savant)

Mooringsport Elementary School students, Tyler Castie and Destiney Caskey, learn how to use a Global Positioning System devic Sept. 12, 2006, in the STARBASE Louisiana’s satellite classroom on Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sherri Savant)

BARKSDALE AFB, LA --

STARBASE La., has expanded.

Thanks  to the cooperation of several base organizations, the Reserve-sponsored educational program for at-risk fifth and sixth-grade students, was able to expand to the 917th Security Forces lecture room. Use of the satellite classroom will allow STARBASE to accommodate twice as many students this school year, 1300 vs. 650, acccording to Kathy Brandon, STARBASE La., executive director. Classes will meet there daily.

The 2006-2007 school year will be the pilot for the new expansion. One of the goals for STARBASE La., is to reach many more students and build more connections for outreach.

Another goal is to "help our students  focus on taking positive steps to reach their goals and excite many to strive for excellence in Science and Math," said Mrs. Brandon. "We also hope that the innovative teaching environment found at STARBASE will serve as a model for other teachers in the field," she said.

Nearly all of the fifth-grade students in Bossier will attend on-site classes during the school year. Those schools not participating this year will be allowed to rotate in next year.

"The STARBASE expansion is a cooperative endeavor ...between DOD STARBASE La., STARBASE La., Inc., Bossier Parish Schools and the 917th Wing," said Mrs. Brandon.

STARBASE provided the additional materials, management and coordination, the Wing provided the  lecture room, and Bossier Parish provided an additional full-time teacher to maintain program quality while serving additional students.

Ms. Penny Torrey, a fifth grade teacher from Curtis Elementary School was a little skeptical about bringing her students to STARBASE.

"Even after the (STARBASE) training I was skeptical about STARBASE because I have special-needs students," said Ms. Torrey.

Since bringing her homeroom and secondary classes to STARBASE, Ms. Torrey, as well as her students, are quite excited about attending.

"The learning and retention is phenomenal," she said. "STARBASE even covers some of the grade level expectations that most teachers don't have time to cover throughout the school year."

Although all involved are excited about the expansion, it has not been without it's challenges.

"The most difficult thing has been scheduling issues and sharing of the computer lab," said Ms. Brandon. STARBASE is in the process of setting up a mobile computer lab, with the help of the 917th Mission Support Group, that will alleviate the scheduling problem.

STARBASE also faces having their staff and materials spread in two locations. "So far, we have been able to work effectively through  issues as they've arisen," said Mrs. Brandon.

STARBASE Louisiana is asking for participation from Wing members as well.

"We also need volunteers in a variety of capacities," said Brandon. Career mentors are volunteers in military and civilian career fields who come share about their careers with the class during daily "business lunches." With twice as many classes, STARBASE will need twice as many volunteers.

"We have many amterials that must be prepped for each class," said Mrs. Brandon. "Those who wish to help out an hour or two here and there can help in materials preparation." Anyone interested should view the STARBASE La., Web site: https://26ows.barksdale.af.mil/starbase/.