The Department of Defense Dependents Schools is promoting early registration once again, and this time officials say it means more than before.

Each spring, DODDS-Europe encourages families to register their children for the coming school year. Early sign-ups allow schools and districts to better manage their staffs, budgets and resources, officials say.

However, the recent decision to extend the tours of 1st Armored Division soldiers in Iraq by up to 120 days means some families slated to leave this summer will stay past Labor Day and the beginning of school. That, DODDS officials say, should temporarily translate into higher enrollments.

“With the [assignment] overlap, we will have a fairly large number to start the year,” said Walter Ulrich, assistant principal at Giessen High School, Germany.

As the 2004-05 school year matures, Ulrich says, the number of pupils should drop, essentially correcting itself.

Dom Calabria agreed, although the Baumholder High School principal said officials “just don’t know” how much the deployment extensions will affect enrollment come September.

“It’s hard to say who is going to stay and who isn’t,” Calabria said.

The Army announced last week it would allow families in those cases to move to their new duty post this summer, before their soldiers return from Iraq. The 1st AD makes up the lion’s share of the 14,250 active-duty troops the Pentagon kept in Iraq.

By late May, DODDS should have a better idea how many more pupils it will have this fall, said Frank O’Gara, the DODDS-Europe spokesman.

“We’re looking at it,” O’Gara said of the enrollment picture. “We’re watching it closely.”

One way parents can help, he said, is to inquire at their child’s school about early registration. The process takes about 20 minutes, O’Gara said.

In addition, the DODDS Web site now allows all families to register online, although parents will still need to go to the school to sign the registration form. That Web site address is:

Early registration is more important than ever, O’Gara said. School administrators, from registrars to principals, will work around parents’ schedules to accommodate them, he added.

Officials believe a successful registration campaign will give them time to make adjustments sooner rather than later.

“If we need to tweak the staffing in any location, we’ll have the time to do that,” O’Gara said, referring to class sizes.

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