DODDS-Europe officials adjust to shrinking military presence
Stars and Stripes August 28, 2006
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — When students return to school today, more than just the bulletin boards will be different.
Just as the U.S. military’s footprint in Europe is changing, so have the continent’s Defense Department schools.
Much has changed over the summer.
Nearly a dozen schools have closed or combined with other schools, and some are approaching their final year due to the shift in U.S. troops from Europe. Other schools are considerably bigger, gaining students from areas that have seen populations plummet.
Students also will find new faces or maybe the return of some familiar ones. Administrators, teachers and staff members have crisscrossed the continent and switched districts and schools. More than 200 Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe employees retired over the summer, prompting some of the moves, said Dennis Bohannon, DODDS-Europe spokesman.
Despite the loss of such units as the 1st Infantry Division, school officials expect enrollment at European schools to be only slightly less than last year. This year, 40,700 children of active-duty military and civilian employees are expected to attend the nearly 100 DODDS-Europe schools, from the Azores to Turkey.
Here are some of the changes across the region:
• New rules on absentee requirements have been tightened, Bohannon said. Parents need to report that their child is going to be absent or late no later than the day prior. Parents must tell the school of unplanned absences, due to sickness for example, at least one hour before the start of school. If a student is running late, the school must be notified within one hour from the start of school. If the school hasn’t heard from the parent by 10 a.m., the school will contact the parent and other contacts on the registration list. If that fails, the school will contact the servicemember’s chain of command.
• New eligibility requirements announced earlier this year will allow children of Defense Department contractors to attend DODDS-Europe schools on a space-guaranteed, tuition-paying basis. The children of full-time, locally hired employees who are U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals also will be eligible to attend the schools, but the tuition will be free.
• Three required inoculations have been added for students attending this school year. They are: tetanus and diphteria toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine, also known as Tdap; hepatitis A; and meningococcal conjugate vaccine, known as MCV4. Schools have given extensions to those students in areas where there is a shortage.
• This year will mark the first year of a new strategic plan for Defense Department schools worldwide. The Community Strategic Plan will act as a blueprint for the schools for the next six years. The last Community Strategic Plan, or CSP, began in 2001 and ended last school year. All the schools are required to focus on how they’re going to get better. “We all have to come up with a new goals and how we’re going to improve our schools,” said Ray Szcepaniak, assistant principal at Kaiserslautern Middle School.