DODEA officially opens its newest ‘21st-century’ school on Okinawa

A Marine takes video of a taiko drumming performance by Zukeran Elementary students during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new school at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.


By CARLOS M. VAZQUEZ II | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 10, 2018

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Department of Defense Education Activity celebrated its newest "21st century" school Wednesday on Okinawa.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the state-of-the-art Zukeran Elementary School was attended by DODEA director Thomas Brady, DODEA director for student excellence Lois Rapp, Marine Corps Installations Pacific commander Brig. Gen. Paul Rock, and a plethora of teachers and students decked out in blue T-shirts.

Located just across the street from its 60-year-old former building, the facility has introduced Zukeran’s 518 students — from preschoolers to fifth-graders — to “21st-century” DODEA concepts such flexible instructional spaces designed to support various learning environments.

“The old school was your traditional classroom which was isolated to itself,” said principal Reynaldo Toquero. “In here, classrooms are called studios, where students are interconnected as a grade level and become one big neighborhood where teachers work together. In many of the neighborhoods, children are grouped according to needs and work with different teachers.”

Ground was broken on the school Jan. 15, 2014, with the idea of creating a healthier and more spacious place for learning.

“I watched it grow,” said math support specialist Marilei Driggs, who has been teaching Zukeran students for the past three decades. “I thought I would have a hard time seeing the transition, but I think it’s been really good. We used to be an enclosed school, now we are open and have neighborhoods and collaboration areas. It’s just a whole new concept.”

Many students, who have been attending the new school since classes began Aug. 27, appear to be onboard with the changes.

“There’s bigger classrooms, more colorful furniture, and it’s more spacious,” said fifth-grader Madeline Rodriguez. “It makes me feel happy and excited every single day to come to the new school.”

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DODEA director Thomas Brady speaks at the official opening of the new Zukeran Elementary School at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

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