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The Department of Defense Dependents Schools — Europe will have an even smaller presence at Italy’s Camp Darby starting in the fall.

The base’s high school closed in June, leaving a combined elementary and middle school.

Now a large drop in enrollment has DODDS planning to eliminate five of the 14.5 slots for educators.

“Basically, the issue is that there must be a reduction in staff there next year,” said Sam Menniti, assistant superintendent for the Mediterranean District.

Menniti said he broached the subject three weeks ago at a school advisory council meeting and then discussed it again Monday at a town hall meeting attended by parents.

Army Maj. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of the Vicenza-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, also attended the meeting.

The Department of Defense Education Activity has a formula that assigns a specific number of educators to a school based on enrollment, Menniti said.

Livorno’s enrollment was projected at 118 students this year, but is actually 70.

He said that the community and school will have until August to decide what kinds of extra programs the school will be able to offer.

Some might be eliminated. More grades could be combined in single classrooms. “It could mean both of those,” Menniti said.

But he said the enrollment hasn’t gotten low enough for DODDS to plan to close the school.

“People have asked me that and the answer is: ‘No,’ ” he said.

Still, talking about having fewer instructors has some parents concerned.

One of them, Antoinette Daigle, sent a letter to Stars and Stripes protesting the cuts before the meeting took place.

“This current DODDS staffing policy based primarily on student enrollments and enrollment projections have put the children of the Livorno community at a disadvantage,” she wrote.

“A more appropriate approach to staffing should be on a DODDS standard of essential programs and educational standards that must be applied regardless of enrollment.”

She wrote that the school already lost a host nation teacher’s spot to provide instruction in Italian, and six grades have been combined in three classrooms.

Menniti said DODDS simply does not have the resources to staff schools at levels beyond their enrollments.

Doing so would require cuts at other schools in the district, which manages DODDS schools in Italy, Spain, Turkey and Portugal.

Darby dining facility to close

The Army has decided to close the military dining facility at Camp Darby, citing a lack of regular use by the servicemembers it was designed to support.

John Clouse, director of logistics for the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza in Italy, said the facility has fallen far short of meeting criteria the Army uses to monitor efficiency in such operations. The decision was made to close it on Jan. 15.

Only 37 airmen hold meal cards, he said.

“If everyone [eligible] was eating at the DFAC, we might be able to play with it a little,” Clouse said Friday in a telephone interview. “You had 37 who were eligible to eat there, but they were not eating there.”

So the facility soon will be the home of the Italian mensa (dining facility) on base. That move could allow the base club to open some kind of eatery in the space the mensa will vacate, Clouse said.

There aren’t a lot of dining options on base, especially on nights and weekends. And, for those without cars, there are no restaurants within walking distance outside the gates.

In addition to the possible restaurant in the club, officials are asking the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to look at expanding its operations. Concessionaires operate restaurants in the bowling alley and commissary/exchange complex. Lunch also is available during the week at the mensa, commissary and a bar in the Italian carabinieri complex.

In addition, renovations are under way in the dorms and barracks on base to give servicemembers living there better facilities to cook their own food[/BODY].

Clouse said servicemembers on meal cards already had to eat elsewhere on the weekends since the dining facility was closed.

Clouse said the dining facility at Darby costs about $1.2 million to operate annually and the Army would save some money from the move. But it has offered to provide jobs in Vicenza — which soon will be expanding its dining facility — for the three Americans and 15 Italians who worked at Darby.

“Personally, I would like for all of them to come over and work,” he said. “They’re trained, familiar with the equipment and know how to prepare food American style.”

The military has offered to pay their moving expenses. Three workers have expressed an interest in moving since they were informed Monday by Maj. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) that the Darby jobs would disappear.

— Kent Harris

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