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‘American’ returns to Yongsan school’s name after public outcry

Falling enrollment has prompted officials to combine the Seoul American Middle School and the Seoul American High School.

KIM GAMEL/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARCUS FICHTL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 15, 2017

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — After a public outcry, the word “American” was restored to the name of the soon-to-be-consolidated middle/high school at the Army’s Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, officials said Wednesday.

“Please know that we acknowledge and appreciate the proud legacy of our Seoul American Schools,” Lois Rapp, a Department of Defense Education Activity official, said in an email. “The combined school will be named Seoul American Middle/High School.”

Falling enrollment due to the ongoing move of U.S. troops and their families to Camp Humphreys as the military transitions its headquarters 40 miles south of Seoul prompted DODEA to combine the Seoul American Middle School and the Seoul American High School.

In a memo to parents and a recent town hall, school officials said the combined school would be called the Seoul Middle High School.

Parents, alumni and former teachers expressed concern in a flood of letters and emails to DODEA officials.

John Nowell, a military veteran who has lived in South Korea for 50 years and has seen his four children graduate from the Yongsan school system, feared the lack of the word “American” would take away its unique identity.

“It would be distressing to see the revised name of the middle and high school unified without American in its title,” Nowell wrote in an email. “There are over 31 International English language schools now operating in Korea.”

Frank Wrightman, who graduated from the high school in 1971, said the name was a badge of honor.

“Never did I say I graduated from a high school in Seoul, but always said Seoul American High School,” he said. “I was and am very proud of that fact and that name.”

The United States has some 28,500 servicemembers stationed in South Korea along with thousands more dependents and civilian support staff.

The consolidated school, which will be housed in the complex that is currently home to SAHS, will open its doors with the new name next August.

fichtl.marcus@stripes.com
Twitter: @marcusfichtl

 

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