Subscribe

— While students tried hard to forget the world of classrooms and lockers during the summer, work crews didn’t have it so easy — repairing, building, and on a sober note, installing $6 million in antiterrorism upgrades to Defense Department schools in Europe.

“Essentially, the idea is to make our facilities as secure as possible,” said Wayne Hartman, chief of facilities and security for DODDS Europe. “We’ve done surveys with a team of force protection experts. They have a checklist of what they think is a complete security package for a school.”

These improvements can be as straightforward as new public address systems that can hail a particular room or the entire school. A security solution might also be something as seemingly mundane as changing all locks so that they operate on a master system, rather than through several sets of keys. Some schools have new barriers to control traffic.

The security upgrades have been under way for several years.

“It’s an ongoing program,” Hartman said. Security officials prioritized the types of upgrades, specific schools to receive them and at what time.

“Two other things that come to mind are fencing and exterior lighting,” schools spokesman Frank O’Gara said. “And one thing that we don’t talk the details about is how to constantly revise the force protection plans for our schools. Those are constantly being updated, and obviously we don’t talk about the details.”

Schools in Germany receiving summer reinforcement are Robinson Barracks Elementary in Stuttgart, Schweinfurt Middle School, Rainbow Elementary in Ansbach, Dexheim Elementary, all schools in Mannheim and Kaiserslautern, Vogelweh Elementary and Baumholder’s Smith and Wetzel elementary schools. In Britain, projects included London Central High School and dorm, Feltwell Elementary, Croughton Elementary and Middle School, Menwith Hill’s elementary and high school, Lakenheath’s high school and intermediate school and the Alconbury schools.

Other types of upgrades have also been underway. Würzburg Elementary in Germany received a new classroom and multipurpose room. Another $18 million was spent on construction to support full-day kindergartens or modify schools to promote smaller teacher-to-pupil ratios. Elementary schools receiving such upgrades were Sigonella, Sicily; and in Germany: Bamberg, Hainerberg in Wiesbaden, Kaiserslautern, Kitzingen, Landstuhl, Patrick Henry in Heidelberg, Vogelweh and Wetzel.

The largest project is a new $12 million high school at Hohenfels, Germany, where teens had shared a campus with grade schoolers.

“The neat thing is that we’ll really look like a high school,” said Maureen Belanger, the principal.

The new school has a modern library with computer access, its own gym, cafeteria and stage. The school even boasts a robotics lab.

“Kids have been dropping by, and kids have been showing enthusiasm for the new building,” Belanger said. One student went right for the lockers to inspect their spaciousness. “I know the kids are excited about it.”

Teachers are relieved, too. In previous years, they lacked their own space for prep periods, making correcting papers or planning curriculums a pain.

“Last year was miserable,” Belanger said. “Teachers had to share their classrooms.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now