All Osan, Humphreys students on wait list will be able to attend on-base schools
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — All students from Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys who were on waiting lists to attend schools in their region will get to go to local on-base schools after all, officials said Thursday.
Students from families of civilian contractors and other nonactive-duty military parents in the Pyongtaek region of central South Korea initially were crowded out by a surge of active-duty students, who get priority on enrollment.
The announcement opens the doors for 40 students to attend Osan American High School and another 35 who were waiting to attend the Camp Humphreys Elementary School, said officials of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea district in Seoul.
“With all the ‘powers’ looking at teacher and educational support capacity, it was determined that they can handle that number of kids,” said Warren Tobin, DODDS-Korea chief of staff in Seoul.
The students had been on waiting lists since school opened Aug. 30.
The Osan American students were to report to school Friday, said Carol Czerw, the school’s principal. The students are in grades 7, 8, 9 and 11. They’re in what DODDS calls Category 2 — family members of civilian contractors working with the U.S. military.
“I’ve asked that they all come tomorrow — no need to hang out one more day,” Czerw said Thursday.
“I’ve called all the parents and those that will be coming in new will come in tomorrow at 8:30,” said Czerw. “They need to get lockers and pick up their schedule and the planners that they carry. As soon as we process them with that, they’ll go to their first-period and they’re off and running.”
DODDS decided to admit them after concluding that the arrival of students from active-duty families had leveled off and that there was enough classroom space for the 40 students, said Charles Toth, DOODS-Korea superintendent.
Earlier this week, DODDS officials had invited the Osan Category 2 students to enroll at Seoul American High School and Seoul American Middle School, on Yongsan Garrison, about a two-hour bus ride away.
Four Category 2 students from the Pyongtaek region signed up to attend at Yongsan, officials said. But after Thursday’s announcement, the four instead will attend Osan American High School, Tobin said.
“The ones that came to Seoul are returning,” said Tobin. “All four said they’d rather go back to Osan.”
To attend at Yongsan, students would have had to pay for their own transportation and endure long bus rides. One-way fare for the two-hour Camp Humphreys-Yongsan trip is $4.80; it’s a 70-minute trip from Osan Air Base to Yonsgan, at $4.25
At Camp Humphreys American Elementary School, 35 students in Category 3 — children of non-appropriated fund employees and military families without command-sponsorship — will attend either the school at Camp Humphreys or the Osan American Elementary School, officials said.
“They have all been accommodated,” said Camp Humphreys Elementary Principal Donna Kacmarski.
Approximately 15 will attend at Camp Humphreys and another 20 or so from Camp Humphreys will be bused to Osan American Elementary School, which has more space than the Camp Humphreys school.
To help meet the elementary school overflow, DODDS-Korea will hire two new teachers for Osan American Elementary School, officials said.
“They’re in the process of being hired,” Kacmarski said.
“Oh it’s super,” said Osan contractor Richard Song, whose daughter, Loria, began the bus rides to Yongsan this week while hoping for eventual entry to 11th grade at Osan American High.
“I’m delighted,” said Song. “Her residence is in Osan so it’s better to go to school here in Osan High School. She will start her first day tomorrow at Osan.”
But Song said he continues to hope the U.S. military and DODDS leadership will find ways to avert similar problems in the future.
The U.S. military plans to shift large numbers of troops into the Pyongtaek region in central South Korea in coming years, transforming it into a major troop hub. The transformation also will bring growing numbers of school-age children into the region, officials have said.
Meanwhile, DODDS officials said they expect to keep in close touch with the senior U.S. military leadership in South Korea to work out ways of averting similar overcrowding problems next school year.
Toth said he and his staff “will be very pro-active in working this issue.” He noted that he discussed the matter last Friday with the top U.S. military commander in South Korea, U.S. Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte.
“It will have even more significant meaning next year,” said Toth, “because the past year has given me reason to believe that there will be more students.”