DODDS-Europe officials puzzled by low registration numbers
August 24, 2005
With less than a week to go before classes start, about 9,000 pupils expected to attend schools on military bases throughout Europe have failed to register.
“It’s something we have not been able to put our finger on yet,” said Frank O’Gara, spokesman for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, about the alarmingly lax registration that could leave nearly 20 percent of classroom seats unfilled at the start of classes Monday.
Late registration causes headaches for school officials because classroom sizes and staffing levels are determined by the number of pupils who register, said Helen Balilo, principal of Wetzel Elementary School in Baumholder, Germany, which was about 120 pupils short of its expected enrollment of 400 on Tuesday. Balilo fears she will cut classes based on small registration numbers and be forced to reorganize later when children show up.
The low registration numbers are occurring across the board in each of Europe’s five school districts, O’Gara said.
The Bavaria school district, which includes Würzburg-based 1st Infantry Division families, has the most pupils unaccounted for, with 3,200 children expected to register who have not done so, he said.
About 2,500 pupils in the Heidelberg, Germany, district have not registered, along with 1,800 pupils in the Kaiserslautern, Germany, district; 1,000 in the Mediterranean district, which includes Italy and Spain; and 850 children in the Isles district, which includes England, O’Gara said.
An intense public awareness campaign helped add 2,500 registrations in the past 10 days, but the number of registered pupils is still much lower than usual this close to the start of the school year, he said.
About 250 children, or 22 percent of the expected population, have failed to register at Ramstein High School, principal Barbara Ferg-Carter said.
Other schools in the Kaiserslautern district, including ones in Baumholder, are also seeing large gaps between the number of expected pupils and those who have registered, leaving district officials perplexed.
“I don’t know why people aren’t registering this year,” said Elaine Grande, assistant superintendent of the Kaiserslautern school district, which at last count was missing about 18 percent of its expected pupils. “At this point we’re all a little bit stymied.”
At Lakenheath High School in England, about 100 pupils have failed to register, marking an improvement over the past couple of weeks, said principal James McAdams.
O’Gara said a new pupil management system used to track enrollment could be part of the problem. Some pupils may be registered but not showing up in the system, he said, but that is unlikely to account for the large discrepancies between expected enrollment and registered pupils.
“I’m really reluctant to speculate,” O’Gara said, “because these kids may all show up on Monday.”