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The closure of the small elementary school at the Bad Kissingen housing area north of Schweinfurt, Germany, has been delayed for at least a year because of the deployment of 1st Infantry Division troops living there, a Department of Defense Dependents Schools spokesman said.

DODDS had announced a year ago that it would close the school at the end of the 2003-2004 term, said Ed Atterberry, a spokesman for the DODDS-Bavaria District, as part of U.S. Army Europe’s plan to close the Bad Kissingen housing area within four years. Its 93 pupils, from preschool to age 5, would be bused 15 miles to schools in Schweinfurt.

Then last summer, the Pentagon announced that the 1st ID would be headed to Iraq for a yearlong deployment this spring, meaning most children would have to switch schools at the same time one of their parents was away from home.

“Virtually every family in Bad Kissingen was affected by this [deployment],” Atterberry said. “It just seemed like it would be inappropriate to add to the turmoil.”

Besides the deployment, Schweinfurt schools had higher- than-expected enrollments in the fall, meaning the Bad Kissingen children would have had to transfer to crowded schools. Bavaria District Superintendent Ronald G. McIntire tentatively decided in September to keep the school open at least one year longer, Atterberry said, but the decision wasn’t announced until late last month.

Parents and teachers cheered the decision. The school is just five minutes’ walk from the homes of the 75 families who live there and is small — 18 staff members and class sizes ranging from five to 16 pupils, according to Dana Olsen, a second-grade teacher who is currently the acting principal.

“It’s actually so small, the parents feel like the kids are in private school,” she said.

Natalie Cadena, mother of a second-grader and a substitute teacher at the school, said parents have been hoping to keep the school open until the community is closed, reportedly in 2006. With almost every child losing a parent to the 1st ID deployment, it has been a big relief to know their children will stay close to home.

“We’re all ecstatic it’s staying open. The teachers are great, and the classes are small,” she said. “It would be very inconvenient to close the school under the circumstances.”

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