Support our mission

The decision is in: Navy and military school officials in Europe want to keep the elementary school in Gaeta, Italy, open for one more year.

In October, parents and children were left in temporary limbo after first being told that this year would be the school’s last and then being informed that the matter still was up for discussion.

After meeting late Wednesday with an ad hoc committee created to discuss the issue, Navy leaders decided to recommend to Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe that the school remain open through the 2007-08 school year, said Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Snyder, a spokeswoman with Navy Region Europe.

While the decision of when to close Gaeta’s school will be made by the Department of Defense Education Activity, headquartered in Arlington, Va., DODDS-Europe officials intend to mirror the Navy’s choice, spokesman Dennis Bohannon said.

“Once DODDS-Europe receives the recommendation letter from the Navy, we will forward our recommendations to DODEA. DODDS-Europe will also recommend the school be kept open through the 2007-2008 school year,” Bohannon said.

In October, school officials prematurely sent a letter to Gaeta parents alerting them that the school would close in 2007, when the current school year ends. They did so without input and recommendations from the Navy. Officials then rescinded the letter, called for a town hall meeting and organized a study group.

Keeping the school open for another year will cost DODDS-Europe an estimated $1.4 million, down from the $1.7 million price tag for fiscal 2007, Bohannon said.

Because the pupil population will be so small, the school won’t have specific staff for art, music or physical education, Diana Ohman, the DODDS-Europe director, said in a statement. However, the classes and activities still will be provided, but by classroom teachers.

Additionally, there will be multi-age classes that combine pupils from more than one grade, which has been done before in other small schools, said David Ruderman, another DODDS-Europe spokesman.

Currently, there are 40 elementary pupils enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade, and 10 staff members. Next school year, the numbers are projected to go down to 28 pupils and three teachers, Ruderman said.

In the future, remaining pupils will not be bused to Naples, as is done currently with middle- and high-school students. Options under consideration include moving families to the Naples area and closer to the support site base, enrolling pupils in area schools through the Non-DODDS School Program, and supporting home schooling, Ruderman said.

Gaeta is home to about 200 military and civilian personnel. The base has been going through a drawdown, and in February became a detachment of Naval Support Activity Naples instead of its own self-supporting command.


around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up