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A contractor puts the final touches on one of the classrooms in the new Humphreys American Elementary School.

A contractor puts the final touches on one of the classrooms in the new Humphreys American Elementary School. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

A contractor puts the final touches on one of the classrooms in the new Humphreys American Elementary School.

A contractor puts the final touches on one of the classrooms in the new Humphreys American Elementary School. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

Second-graders at the new Humphreys American Elementary School take a short arts and crafts break during the first week of school.

Second-graders at the new Humphreys American Elementary School take a short arts and crafts break during the first week of school. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — In a former bowling alley on this growing Army base south of Seoul, the sound of crashing pins and gutter balls has been replaced with recess bells and kids reciting multiplication tables.

For the first time, Camp Humphreys has its own fully staffed elementary school, serving more than 80 students, from kindergarten through sixth grade. Until this year, most students — except grades K through 2 — were bused to Osan Air Base, sometimes an hour away in traffic.

“The children are ecstatic, and so are the parents,” said Donna Kacmarski, Humphreys American Elementary School principal.

“The command here has really committed to a partnership with education and they are the reason we got to where we are today. Our school motto is, ‘Where children are our top priority,’ and the command has really adopted that,” said Kacmarski, who had served in Taegu’s Department of Defense Dependents School for the past six years.

According to DoDDS officials, plans to open a full elementary school at Humphreys have kicked around for the past few years. A similar plan to turn the bowling alley into a school was scrapped two years ago due to lack of DODDS funding.

Once the agreement was in place this time, it took less than three months to transform the bowling center into a bright, airy schoolhouse.

“We wanted to take the bowling alley and use as much of the current structure as possible to save cost, but we also wanted to build a quality building,” said Bruce Jeter, the Korea District superintendent.

“You don’t have to have a Cadillac when you can have a little Saturn or Volkswagen.”

Jeter said the classrooms in the Camp Humphreys school are larger than average. The school had 84 students on the first day of classes, but it was built to accommodate roughly 150.

Renovations to the building totaled $530,000 and resulted in a 17,000-square foot facility.

This year, there are five full-time teachers and a kindergarten aide. Kacmarski hopes that, as the student population increases, the staff will expand. Next year, she said, the school hopes to have on-site specialists for art education, cultural classes, English as a Second Language and special education — which are now shared with Osan schools.

School officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 22 and plan the school’s first open house for Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.

With larger plans forming to move U.S. forces in South Korea around the peninsula, DODDS officials say one of their biggest challenges will be to tailor and transform their facilities.

“There is a lot to be done,” said Jeter, the district superintendent. “It’s a large military challenge as is, and it is our job to support them and try to move right along with the plan that they have.”

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