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Kaiserslautern gauging interest in private, international school

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — City planners are floating the idea of opening a private school in Kaiserslautern that would teach an internationally recognized curriculum mostly in English.

The International School Kaiserslautern would serve the international and local communities in the greater Kaiserslautern area, said Andrea Oliver, the director of U.S. relations for the city.

But before any school bells ring, the city must first determine whether there are enough potential students in the region to sustain the school.

The city would need positive feedback from between 180 and 200 potential students to move forward, Oliver said.

Tuition would range from 12,500 to 17,000 euros (about $17,400 to $23,600) annually, based on grade level.

To that end, the city, with support from the regional non-profit association, “ZukunftsRegion Westpfalz,” is circulating two online questionnaires, one for families and one for international corporations. The surveys are available in English and German on the city’s web site. Questions include whether companies provide an educational allowance and, if not, whether a family could afford the tuition.

Backers of the plan also are assessing what age groups or grade levels are needed from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The city has extended the deadline to accept completed surveys through the end of May.

“We are trying to formally establish the need in our region,” Oliver said.

The city has some anecdotal evidence that there is a need.

“We keep hearing over the years that there is a big clientele of individuals in the Kaiserslautern areas — German, American and other nationalities — who are not part of the military system” and therefore don’t have free access to Department of Defense schools on base, Oliver said. “They would like to put their children in an international school system that allows them to be able to transfer back into other schools in Canada, Italy, other NATO countries” after they leave Germany.

Those families currently either enroll their children in German school or leave their dependents at home, while one parent works abroad, Oliver said. Some also pay to send their child to a DOD school on base, she said.

About 220,000 people live in Kaiserslautern city and the surrounding county of Kaiserslautern, a figure that doesn’t include the approximately 55,000 Americans who are not registered with German authorities because they fall under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, according to Oliver.

The school could serve dependents of U.S. contractors and those working for NATO countries that don’t have their own school system here, among others, she said.

In the Kaiserslautern Military Community, 91 students pay for tuition to attend a base school, according to an official with Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe. Those include children of Air Force and Army contractors, foreign service workers and U.S. companies. The family member must have base access. Annual tuition costs from $23,000 to $26,500 per student.

The city’s international population is diverse, with residents representing more than 140 nations, excluding SOFA-status members, Oliver said.

Many of those are students or instructors at one of the city’s two universities or researchers with the area’s scientific institutes, Oliver said.

Several major and smaller U.S. companies are located in Kaiserslautern, including Corning, Fruit of the Loom, Avid, Celanese, and John Deere.

John Deere opened its European technology and innovation center in Kaiserslautern about six years ago, Oliver said, one of only three John Deere research facilities worldwide.

The school would offer an International Baccalaureate educational program. The main language of instruction would be English, with a strong secondary focus on German, Oliver said. The school would offer all-day schooling, including before- and after-care, according to a brochure published by the regional association.

No location has been determined yet, though the city is looking at several, including the former German military recruiting center, “a nice old villa in a park in the center of town,” Oliver said.

There’s no concern about finding enough English instructors, she said.

“Some of the very first replies are all from potential teachers who want to work there,” Oliver said.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com
 

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