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Sixth-grade students at Kaiserslautern Middle School get their pictures taken during the first day of school at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Sixth-grade students at Kaiserslautern Middle School get their pictures taken during the first day of school at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)
Sixth-grade students at Kaiserslautern Middle School get their pictures taken during the first day of school at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Sixth-grade students at Kaiserslautern Middle School get their pictures taken during the first day of school at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)
A Kaiserslautern Middle School student makes last-minute adjustments in the mirror before school photos during the first day of school at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
A Kaiserslautern Middle School student makes last-minute adjustments in the mirror before school photos during the first day of school at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)
Seventh-grade students receive their schedules during the first day of school at Kaiserslautern Middle School at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Seventh-grade students receive their schedules during the first day of school at Kaiserslautern Middle School at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)
Seventh-grade students compare schedules during the first day of school at Kaiserslautern Middle School at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Seventh-grade students compare schedules during the first day of school at Kaiserslautern Middle School at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)
Kaiserslautern Middle School students move between classes during the first day of school at Kaiserslautern Middle School at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Kaiserslautern Middle School students move between classes during the first day of school at Kaiserslautern Middle School at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)
Kevin Morris, an education technologist at Kaiserslautern Middle School, speaks with students about proper internet usage during the first day of school at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Kevin Morris, an education technologist at Kaiserslautern Middle School, speaks with students about proper internet usage during the first day of school at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)
Workers remove debris from the second floor of Kaiserslautern High School at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.  The second floor of the school is closed while the roof is being repaired, after damage to a portion of the roof was discovered this summer during a routine inspection.
Workers remove debris from the second floor of Kaiserslautern High School at Vogelweh, Germany, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. The second floor of the school is closed while the roof is being repaired, after damage to a portion of the roof was discovered this summer during a routine inspection. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)
Lakenheath American High School students gather before the first day of school at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Lakenheath American High School students gather before the first day of school at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Lakenheath American High School students walk to their assigned areas for orientation on the first day of school at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Lakenheath American High School students walk to their assigned areas for orientation on the first day of school at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Lakenheath Elementary School students taking advantage of the playground before the first day of school at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Lakenheath Elementary School students taking advantage of the playground before the first day of school at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Fourth-grade teacher Andrea Stanley greets returning students during the first day of class at the Liberty Intermediate School in RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Fourth-grade teacher Andrea Stanley greets returning students during the first day of class at the Liberty Intermediate School in RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Airmen and families dropping off their children at the Liberty Intermediate School during the first day of the school year at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Airmen and families dropping off their children at the Liberty Intermediate School during the first day of the school year at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Fifth-grade teacher Shannon Holcomb meeting her new students during the first day of class at the Liberty Intermediate School in RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Fifth-grade teacher Shannon Holcomb meeting her new students during the first day of class at the Liberty Intermediate School in RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)
Geometry students use a rope to show how to calculate a triangle during their first day of classes, Monday, Aug.28, 2017, at Naples High School near Naples, Italy.
Geometry students use a rope to show how to calculate a triangle during their first day of classes, Monday, Aug.28, 2017, at Naples High School near Naples, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Students head to lunch or class during their first day back from summer break, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, at Naples Middle High School near Naples, Italy.
Students head to lunch or class during their first day back from summer break, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, at Naples Middle High School near Naples, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Students talk about their new school schedules and other things in the central common area of the new Wiesbaden High School as they wait to go to an orientation, Monday, Aug. 24, 2017. It is the first 21st-century-designed school in the Department of Defense Education Activity.
Students talk about their new school schedules and other things in the central common area of the new Wiesbaden High School as they wait to go to an orientation, Monday, Aug. 24, 2017. It is the first 21st-century-designed school in the Department of Defense Education Activity. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Students walk toward the main entrance of the new Wiesbaden High School in Wiesbaden, Germany, Monday Aug. 28, 2017.
Students walk toward the main entrance of the new Wiesbaden High School in Wiesbaden, Germany, Monday Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden High School students enter their new school for the first day of the 2017-18 school year, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Five hundred students were enrolled on the first day of classes in the first 21st-century-designed school in the Department of Defense Education Activity.
Wiesbaden High School students enter their new school for the first day of the 2017-18 school year, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Five hundred students were enrolled on the first day of classes in the first 21st-century-designed school in the Department of Defense Education Activity. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A view of the common area of the new Wiesbaden High School as seen from the school's third floor on the first day of the 2017-18 school year, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
A view of the common area of the new Wiesbaden High School as seen from the school's third floor on the first day of the 2017-18 school year, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Sandra Whitaker, the new principal at the new Wiesbaden High School, center, talks to freshmen during orientation on the first day of the 2017-18 school year, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. The orientation was held in a multipurpose room off the central commons area.
Sandra Whitaker, the new principal at the new Wiesbaden High School, center, talks to freshmen during orientation on the first day of the 2017-18 school year, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. The orientation was held in a multipurpose room off the central commons area. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Students walk out of the new Wiesbaden High School toward the gym, where an assembly was held before all of the students entered the new school for orientation and class, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Students walk out of the new Wiesbaden High School toward the gym, where an assembly was held before all of the students entered the new school for orientation and class, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden High School students listen as teachers give them an orientation on the new school and the new school year, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. It is the first 21st-century-designed school in DODEA, where ''neighborhoods'' surround a central hub.
Wiesbaden High School students listen as teachers give them an orientation on the new school and the new school year, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. It is the first 21st-century-designed school in DODEA, where ''neighborhoods'' surround a central hub. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden High School staff help students set the combinations of their lockers on the first day of class at the new facility, the first 21st-century-designed school in the Department of Defense Education Activity.
Wiesbaden High School staff help students set the combinations of their lockers on the first day of class at the new facility, the first 21st-century-designed school in the Department of Defense Education Activity. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
With her first-graders gathered around on the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, Ramstein Elementary School teacher Janet Bridges tries to remember names of all of her students.
With her first-graders gathered around on the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, Ramstein Elementary School teacher Janet Bridges tries to remember names of all of her students. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)
A sign in the hallway at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany welcomes first-graders back to school on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
A sign in the hallway at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany welcomes first-graders back to school on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Embree Bench, a second-grader at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany, designs a name tag in art class on the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Embree Bench, a second-grader at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany, designs a name tag in art class on the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Going back to school can be exhausting. A second-grader at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany yawns while listening to a talk about cafeteria rules on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Going back to school can be exhausting. A second-grader at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany yawns while listening to a talk about cafeteria rules on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Second-graders at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany laugh and sing along while art teacher Jules Fritz plays some silly songs on the guitar at the end of art class on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.
Second-graders at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany laugh and sing along while art teacher Jules Fritz plays some silly songs on the guitar at the end of art class on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Jennifer Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The future has arrived at Wiesbaden High School in Germany — and it looks nothing like a traditional classroom.

Monday was the first day back to school for most students at U.S. military bases across Europe. In Wiesbaden, the occasion was marked by the opening of the Department of Defense’s first “21st-century school,” a $52 million facility intended to promote more collaborative learning via open, shared and flexible instructional spaces instead of the traditional shoebox design.

“We’re really, really excited to be the first 21st-century school,” said first-year principal Sandra Whitaker.

The school’s three stories center around a commons area from which six “neighborhoods” branch. Instruction occurs here within four “studios” with glass walls that can open to accommodate larger groups, Whitaker said.

“I think that’s just going to allow so much flexibility for different types of projects and groupings of kids,” she said.

Each neighborhood includes its own common area, as well as smaller instructional spaces and areas where teachers can collaborate and “share a common space for their desks,” Whitaker said.

Other features of the new school are a performance theater and a science, technology, engineering and math wing. The wing includes three computer labs, as well as engineering and physics labs.

Senior Johnny Wortmann said Monday he was happy to be out of the “portables,” the temporary classrooms set up while the new school was being built, but he wasn’t so sure the new design was better than the old. “It’s just kind of this whole New Age learning thing,” he said.

Whether the new building sparks learning remains to be seen, said Lee Carter, an English teacher.

“At the end of the day, the kids are kids and school is school,” she said. “We certainly have the advantage of having a beautiful facility that can optimize teaching.”

As of Monday, 500 students were enrolled in grades nine to 12, Whitaker said. Across eight countries in Europe, Department of Defense Education Activity officials were projecting a total enrollment of about 28,000 students in 65 schools.

While the portables are gone from Wiesbaden, they remain for high school students at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. The new Spangdahlem MIddle/High School is slated to be completed in 2019. It will replace Bitburg Middle/High School, which closed in June.

High schoolers in Kaiserslautern, meanwhile, have to wait one more year for their new, 21st-century school, slated to be ready by the fall of 2018.

That date can’t come soon enough, now that the school’s entire upper floor has been closed because of roof damage.

“During a routine facility inspection this summer, it was discovered that a few wood beams in the roof support system had become overstressed, most likely due to age,” DODEA-Europe spokesman Will Griffin said about the school, which was built in 1952.

The repair work will affect 22 classrooms and is expected to last through December, he said. Classes will be temporarily shifted to the first floor.

stoutamire.dan@stripes.com Twitter: @DKS_Stripes

svan.jennifer@stripes.com Twitter: @stripesktown

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