Change is in the air as DODDS schools in Europe prepare for start of year
As summer — one marked by deployments and talk of transformation — draws to an end, about 47,500 DODDS students prepare to return to classes on Tuesday.
“Deployments are a very important piece for us,” said Frank O’Gara, spokesman for Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe. “Schools play an important part in helping to create stability for children in a community where units are deployed.”
Troops from the 1st Infantry Division are currently in Iraq, while deployments of other units to Afghanistan and Iraq during the upcoming school year were recently announced.
At Hohenfels High School, teachers and administrators identify children of deployed soldiers, and monitor them for changes in behavior during the deployment.
“We’re always checking with the units to make sure we know who our kids are that are affected by deployments,” said Maureen Belanger, the school’s principal.
Soldiers from the 94th Engineer Battalion from Hohenfels will deploy around Christmastime, and a company from the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment deploys within a week.
“Because we’re a small community, we’re able to keep a better check on our kids,” Belanger said. “We see them every day, and if they are acting different, we are more likely to pick up on it.”
While many students are returning to school unsure about their teachers, many teachers are returning unsure about their future, following the announcement of a U.S. military transformation in Europe.
“Our logistics and personnel staff in DODDS-Europe will begin a planning process to efficiently implement any decisions made by the civilian and military leadership,” said Diana J. Ohman, director of DODDS-Europe.
“We will coordinate with command officials to determine any future closure dates for affected schools and timelines for steps needed to reach those milestones.
“Our personnel officials will coordinate with teacher union leaders regarding the reassignments and placement of certified staff and address issues affecting support staff.”
Although most students begin classes on Tuesday, teachers and administrators have been working since late August getting the schools ready. In addition, some schools with a large number of international students follow a different schedule and began classes on Aug. 23.
Through the uncertainty, DODDS officials say the school staffs remain focused on improving education and facilities for their students.
Students entering the ninth grade this year — the Class of 2008 — will be required to earn 26 units of credit to graduate from DODDS schools. Those graduating through 2007 need 24.
Also, the schools are fully implementing language arts and reading curriculum for grades kindergarten through six, and language arts in grades seven to 12.
The first phase of implementing the new curriculum began in the 2002-2003 school year.
DODDS building officials had a busy summer, with $45.6 million in major construction, renovations and force protection improvements to schools in Europe, O’Gara said.
The major projects included an elementary school in Rota, Spain; a building for Lakenheath Middle School at RAF Feltwell, England; a gymnasium for Rota Middle School; and new classrooms for full-day kindergarten in several communities.
In addition, renovations were made to:
Eleven classrooms at Ramstein Elementary School, Germany.Dining facility at Lakenheath Elementary School, England.Bathrooms at London Central dormitory.A new roof at RAF Alconbury High School, England.The mechanical and electrical systems at Ankara’s elementary and high school in Turkey.About $3.1 million was spent on force-protection improvements for facilities and buses, which carry about 27,000 students daily, O’Gara said.
“We take every possible precaution with school buses to make sure the kids are safe and secure,” he said.
This year, there are 900 routes and 6,600 separate stops for the buses contracted to make the runs in Belgium, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Bahrain. Each route typically involves a 25-45 minute drive, O’Gara said.
Tuesday: First day of classes for students
Oct. 11: Columbus Day holiday, no classes
Nov. 4: End of first quarter
Nov. 5: No school for students, teacher work day
Nov. 8: Second quarter begins
Nov. 11: Veterans Day holiday, no classes
Nov. 25-26: Thanksgiving holiday and recess, no classes
Dec. 20-31: Winter recess, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, no classes
Jan. 3: Classes resume
Jan. 17: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday, no classes
Jan. 27: End of first semester
Jan. 28: No school for students, teacher work day
Jan. 31: Second semester begins
Feb. 21: Presidents Day holiday, no classes
April 7: End of third quarter
April 8: No school for students, teacher work day
April 11-16: Spring recess
April 18: Fourth quarter begins
May 30: Memorial Day holiday, no classes
June 16: End of second semester
June 17: No school for students, teacher work day
NOTE: DODDS schools in Geilenkirchen, Germany, Bahrain, the Netherlands and Belgium do not follow this schedule.