VILSECK, Germany — Construction noise and cramped classrooms were some of the challenges students at Vilseck High School overcame during the 2006-07 school year.

The school is undergoing massive renovations that will allow it to educate twice as many students as the U.S. Army Grafenwöhr community grows rapidly over the next few years.

This year the enrollment was about 320 students, but that is expected to grow to 350 in the next school year and 600 within a few years.

Vilseck High’s principal, Duane Werner, is proud of the change that’s happening on his campus, although he admits it is disruptive.

A visit to the school recently involved a confusing scramble between half-finished buildings where workers hammered away at wall frames and plastic sheets covered newly installed doors and windows.

This year, the school used only about a quarter of the space it will eventually have.

“We are cramped and don’t have a lot of space, but students and staff have been very understanding throughout,” Werner said.

Senior Courtney Baer, 17, said studying in the midst of the construction was a challenge at times.

“You can sometimes hear a lot of the noise in your class, and we’ve been moved between classrooms during the year, but you make the best of it,” said Baer, who plans to study biology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

For freshman Mark Cruz, 16, who arrived at Vilseck last year, the construction has not been a huge distraction.

“It’s kind of interesting because we have all this construction going on and we still attend school,” said Cruz, who is considering a career in the building industry.

Junior April Feazelle, 16, said she also coped well with the disruption but added: “Sometimes it might get a little crowded and annoying because of the noise and too many students in your class.”

The high school will have a newly renovated fine-arts building — including an art room, choir room and band room — in time for the new school year.

The school gymnasium, which is being renovated to fit two volleyball courts or a basketball court, wrestling room, team rooms and storage, will reopen mid-November. In the meantime, students have been using the Army’s Memorial Fitness Center on the other side of the post.

In a portion of the school that used to house middle school classes (the middle school was moved to Grafenwöhr last year) classrooms are being enlarged and should be available to students by December, Werner said.

“We are hoping for some of the building to be returned in mid-October for Junior ROTC, which is our largest program. We have 110 kids enrolled for [Junior ROTC in] the next school year and we are not finished. Our goal is 120 next year and 150 within two years,” he said.

On the other side of the school, four classrooms are used for storage but will be opened as language-arts rooms next school year. The classrooms are in a block that will be devoted to English and social studies, Werner said.

Nearby, workers are putting together a new television production studio for student broadcasters. The school will have its own television and radio stations and a video production classroom once renovations are complete.

Another new wing includes mathematics classrooms and science laboratories, Werner said.

There also will be special-needs classrooms, a new main entrance and administrative offices as well as a school shop and a senior common room.

Vilseck High will become the school of the future, Werner said.

“This is where it is happening with growth in the community. We want to be on the cutting edge.”

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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