PYONGTAEK, South Korea — The U.S. military will build temporary classrooms at Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys in a move to avert an overcrowding crisis like the one that flared when school began last year, officials said Thursday.

Plans call for four temporary classrooms at Osan American High School and six at Camp Humphreys American Elementary School. Osan and Humphreys are about ten miles apart in west-central South Korea’s Pyongtaek region.

“The student enrollments have increased dramatically at those installations,” said Warren Tobin, chief of staff, Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea district office in Seoul.

Last summer, an influx of active-duty military families, who have priority on school enrollment, left dozens of students, many civilian contractors’ children, faced with looking elsewhere for schooling. DODDS-Korea officials eventually found room for most of them. But for several weeks beginning in late August, DODDS and U.S. military officials confronted a crisis in which vexed parents contended officials had provided inadequately for the region’s growing school space demands.

The uproar drew the involvement of Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, top U.S. military commander in South Korea, and top DODDS-Korea brass, who explored how to avert a similar problem when the 2005-’06 school year begins Aug. 29. The temporary classrooms grew from those discussions.

Each temporary “general purpose” classroom will measure 900 square feet, said Tobin. “‘General purpose’ is basically a square room,” he said, “with 24 desks and a teacher’s desk, a blackboard and a couple of computers … with heat, air conditioning, lights, computer networks.” The interiors resemble general classrooms in the main school, he said.

Tobin said the new space would let both schools enroll more students than last year. But it’s too soon to know precisely how many more, he said, as classroom space is just one of many factors involved in setting enrollment numbers.

The project will create 96 new spaces at Osan, where the current enrollment is 302, Tobin said. Additional details from Air Force officials there were unavailable Thursday.

Final details still are being worked out for the Camp Humphreys classroom project, said Ronnie Lee, Area III Support Activity master planner. Still pending are decisions on classroom location and design and when construction will begin, he said.

The Humphreys classrooms, each seating 18 to 24 students, will create about 126 new spaces at Humphreys, depending upon grade level, Tobin said. Current enrollment is 170. An additional 31 youngsters from Humphreys — 28 grade-schoolers and three in the Sure Start program for prekindergarten 4-year-olds — now are bused to Osan American Elementary School.

Sure Start children will continue to be bused to Osan next year, Tobin said, but the other 28 youngsters no longer would need busing.

Efforts at Humphreys are meant only to meet current enrollment needs, said Army Col. Michael J. Taliento Jr., Area III Support Activity commander at the camp. A long-term “theater master plan” being tended by the U.S. military command in Seoul will address how to house students projected to be part of Humphrey’s “future growth,” Taliento said.

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