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Kendal Morgenweck, a student at Hohenfels Elementary School, Germany, does her daily online assignments at home in March 2020, during the coronavirus lockdown. The parents of about 9,000 DODEA students have opted to have their children attend school virtually for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.
Kendal Morgenweck, a student at Hohenfels Elementary School, Germany, does her daily online assignments at home in March 2020, during the coronavirus lockdown. The parents of about 9,000 DODEA students have opted to have their children attend school virtually for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year. (Garrick W. Morgenweck/U.S. Army)

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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Around one in seven students in Defense Department schools worldwide will attend school virtually for at least the fall semester, school officials said Tuesday.

Parents of about 9,000 students selected the virtual school option by Thursday’s deadline last week, said Stephen Smith, a Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe spokesman said. That represents about 13% of the 69,000 students expected to attend DODEA schools around the world in the upcoming school year.

Breakouts of numbers by specific districts and regions were not available Tuesday evening, Smith said.

Classrooms at the Pentagon’s 160 schools will reopen this fall if local conditions allow, the Pentagon has said. DODEA schools were shuttered and classes moved online in the spring as countries around the world locked down to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Students enrolled in virtual school in the fall will be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities at school, DODEA officials said, reversing an earlier decision.

Students have to commit to the virtual option for at least one semester and can transition to attending classes in person at the beginning of the second semester if local conditions allow, he said.

All students at DODEA schools on installations already in Health Protection Condition “Charlie” — indicating “sustained community transmission” of the virus — will begin the school year using remote learning with their classroom teacher, officials said. School reopenings at bases in the southeastern U.S. have been delayed this month due to the virus.

The union representing DODEA teachers has urged anyone concerned for the health and safety of students, staff and families to ask Congress to require that DODEA schools operate remotely. Federal Education Association leaders have cited concerns about the availability of personal protective equipment, the feasibility of social distancing and staffing levels.

“Students exposed to COVID-19 at school could bring the virus home and infect their parents, which could have a devastating impact on our nation’s military readiness,” says a page on the National Education Association’s web site, which provides a link for people to email their congressional lawmakers.

DODEA has established guidance that follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“The health and safety of our students and employees remains a top priority and has been a primary consideration throughout the planning and preparation for a safe return to school,” Smith said.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com Twitter: @stripesktown

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