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Click here to view a full list of DODEA schools that are getting kindergartens

The Department of Defense Education Activity will expand its kindergarten classes from 418 to 472 for the 2010-11 school year, adding 54 classrooms around the globe.

The move means that 54 teachers and 54 classroom aides will be added at 44 schools — an 11 percent increase. Seven schools in Okinawa will get a total of 13 new kindergarten classes, with five schools in Germany and four in Italy also benefiting.

The system, which serves about 84,000 students in 13 countries, decided in 2009 to move from 29 students per teacher in an average kindergarten class to 18 students per teacher. Nineteen schools were able to find classroom space, obtain materials and hire staff to add more classes for the current school year.

The 44 schools making the move in the fall faced "minimal construction costs" in getting rooms ready, according to DODEA Director Shirley Miles.

After those schools add classes, the system will be "close to 100 percent" in reaching the new ratio, Miles said.

Only a handful of schools will be left with larger class sizes, she said. Those schools don’t have the facilities to support more kindergarten classes and they’ll either need to remodel or build new classrooms over the next few years.

"I think it’s a big deal," Miles said of the decision to add classrooms and personnel.

"The smaller class size, particularly in the early years, is critical."

DODEA had initially proposed eliminating some classroom aide positions while adding teacher slots, but eventually decided that each classroom teacher would have an aide.

Stars and Stripes reporters Kent Harris and Teri Weaver contributed to this story.

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