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GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Overcrowding and a delay in construction of new middle and elementary schools will force some students to attend three different schools in three years, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr commander Col. Brian T. Boyle said this week.

USAG Grafenwöhr spokeswoman Susanne Bartsch confirmed Friday that elementary and middle schools at Netzaberg that were supposed to open for the 2007-2008 school year will not open until the following year. Netzaberg is a multimillion dollar military housing community under construction at Grafenwöhr.

Bartsch said mechanical design deficiencies in things such as air conditioning systems have delayed construction delay, which means, instead of being turned over in October, the schools will be turned over in January.

In a “Command Message” published in the garrison’s newspaper Bavarian News on Wednesday, Boyle wrote that schools in Grafenwöhr are already overcrowded due to the placement of 120 families from the Vilseck-based 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment and some other units at the base last summer.

“School enrollments at Grafenwöhr are the highest they’ve been and will continue to grow,” he wrote, adding that four schools in the garrison serve 1,761 students compared to 1,100 last year.

This year will see another large influx of soldiers’ children to Grafenwöhr.

“We anticipate about 200 more students coming to our community between now and the start of the next school year in August 2007,” Boyle wrote.

Grafenwöhr Elementary School will receive 100 more students while Grafenwöhr Middle School and Vilseck High School will each receive about 50 students, Boyle wrote.

“We (already) exceed the student population limit in the Graf elementary school. … [T]here is no more room at the inn,” he wrote.

The Army’s solution to the overcrowding involves redrawing school enrollment areas and elementary school bus routes for the coming school year and possibly redrawing them again when Netzaberg Elementary School opens in 2008. Boundaries will be drawn to provide equity among the schools to keep the student teacher ratios in balance, Boyle wrote.

“This could mean that a student at GES [Grafenwohr Elementary] will attend VES [Vilseck Elementary] next year and then attend GES or NES [Netzaberg Elementary School] the following year,” he wrote.

Bartsch has said Grafenwöhr will grow from a 1,000-soldier garrison with 2,000 military family members to a brigade-size facility with 4,500 active-duty soldiers and 7,000 family members over the next few years.

By the time all the troops and family members arrive five schools within the garrison will cater to 3,200 students, Boyle wrote.

Grafenwöhr Elementary principle Chrystal Bailey and Grafenwöhr school liaison officer Steve Vojtecky did not return calls on Friday.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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