A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the completion of Preah Ang Duong High School on April 23 in Prey Veng City, Cambodia.
With a project cost of $700,000, this facility represents the largest investment of funding under the U.S. Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster Assistance and Civic Aid Program in Cambodia. It replaces a school built by the U.S. Agency for International Development in the 1950s that sustained major damage during Cambodia’s civil war.
The Honorable William E. Todd, U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, and His Excellency Im Sethy, Cambodian Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, served as hosts of the event.
“Preah Ang Duong High School is a prime example of America’s commitment to the people of Cambodia,” Todd said. “We hope that this school will provide a welcoming environment for good instruction and an enjoyable learning experience that leads to a bright future for every child.”
The celebration closed out a three-year effort by the Office of Defense Cooperation for the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Along the way, attempts to execute this high-priority project were derailed twice.
Originally, Pacific Command planned to renovate the large existing school in 2009. The Corps’ Alaska District, which operates under the regional oversight of Pacific Ocean Division, proceeded with project planning. However, structural assessments and renovation costs made the project impracticable.
Then the Office of Defense Cooperation revised its approach by requesting the construction of a new building and demolition of the unsafe existing structure. Once again, the Corps engaged in project planning and procurement activities, and was poised to award contracts, but the Haiti earthquake disaster in January 2010 resulted in funding shortages.
Finally, a push in late 2011 resulted in the successful award of design and construction work for the new school. From that point forward, the Corps oversaw the execution of the project by host nation design-build and quality assurance contractors. With the project now complete, upgrades include a new two-story facility with 18 furnished classrooms, teachers’ room, storage areas, modern restrooms and water well. As a finishing touch, plans call for recreational courts to be installed on the grounds this summer.
In addition to being the largest humanitarian assistance project ever built in Cambodia, Preah Ang Doung High School presented the most complex challenges encountered to date from a construction and logistics perspective. At the beginning of the project, students continued to attend classes in the original structure during school hours. Since the antiquated building stood on the site designated as the future location of the recreational courts, the new school had to be finished and turned over before the existing structure could be demolished. Meanwhile, the recycling of materials from the demolition helped to reduce the overall cost of the project and increased the likelihood of project approval.
According to Stan Wharry, Chief of the Asia Office for the Alaska District, the timely completion and transfer of the new school with no interruption to the education of students are a direct result of the dedication, flexibility and hard work of the Cambodian design-build contractor, Taing Cheng Oing Construction Company Ltd., and the local quality assurance contractor, Tesco Ltd.
For the past five years, Pacific Command has partnered with the Alaska District to provide more than $9 million in infrastructure for Cambodia. In February, the Office of Defense Cooperation organized seven ground breaking ceremonies for schools and clinics across the country with a combined value in excess of $2 million.
“We’re proud to support the goals of Pacific Command and the U.S. Embassy, and to help make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Wharry said. “Project success is attributed to the great work from the Office of Defense Cooperation, our strong team members in Alaska and Hawaii, and the contractors in Cambodia. We are honored to be part of this program and a great team.”