The inactivation of the 3rd Combat Brigade, 1st Infantry Division  at Fort Knox  is leading to the closure of half of the schools on the military base at the end of the school year.

The base currently has eight schools and about 2,000 students. Nearly 700 students on the base will leave the district when the combat brigade relocates, and four schools will be closed, according to the Department of Defense Education Activity, which oversees the schools serving military families.

Some of the 100 employees affected by the closures will be offered voluntary early retirement packages or buyouts; others will get help relocating, said Cindy Gibson, spokesperson for the Department of Defense Education Activity.

“We will try to place them within our other schools if we can, if we can’t we also have schools in Europe and the Pacific—they could be placed there,” Gibson said.  “They could go out to the schools in the surrounding counties and apply for positions, but we will do everything we can to try to assist them.”

The remaining schools will be restructured to accommodate the nearly 200 students who’ll stay on the base but currently attend a school slated for closure.

Here are the schools that are set to shutdown, and their current enrollment according to the Department of Defense’s Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary School system.

·         Kingslover Elementary – 192 students

·         Mudge Elementary – 252 students

·         Pierce Elementary – 166

·         Walker Intermediate – 264

The “Duke Brigade” is comprised of nearly 3,500 soldiers.  The unit is actively deploying troops to Afghanistan.

Fort Knox officials estimate that the base population will decline by nearly 10,000 people once the combat brigade is relocated.  According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Army Environmental Command, the relocation of the 3rd Brigade will have a “significant” impact of nearly $2.5 million on the socioeconomic make-up of the base.

The relocation of the brigade is part of a restructuring move by the U.S. Army to decrease forces by more than 80,000 troops by 2020.

Human Resource staff from the Department of Defense’s Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary School system will travel to the Fort Knox Community School district to meet with all employees that will be affected by the shutdowns to discuss their options, Gibson said.

Gibson said the last Defense Department-associated school to close was Robbins Elementary on Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.  Declining enrollment led to the school’s closure in 2009.

Elaine Kanellis, spokesperson for the Department of Defense Education Activity, said the organization’s mission is to place schools where military forces are located.

“If the troops aren’t there, we have to adjust for that with schools and personnel from the schools,” she said.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.