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NAPLES, Italy – The beginning of a new school year can be exciting and nerve-wracking for students and parents. For the Mooney family, the start of this school year was also loaded with uncertainty. Up until last week, they really weren’t sure they would be able to enroll their youngest son Patrick, 5, in any school.

The Mooneys live in Gaeta, about 60 miles north of Naples. The Monty Orlando Navy base that Lt. Cmdr. Joe Mooney is assigned to in Gaeta is in the process of closing, and many of the base facilities no longer operate.

"We knew the school was closing, but I still have two years here," Mooney said. "This whole process of the base transition is still being developed."

As part of that transition, Gaeta Elementary School shut its doors for good this past May. Department of Defense Dependant Schools-Europe decided to close the school once the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet staff moved to Naples.

The closure of many base facilities made for a poor school environment, according to DODDS-Europe officials, who notified parents of the closure in 2006.

The Mooneys’ other sons, Ryan, 7, and Sean, 12, will also attend school in Naples. The family was told that Patrick was too young to ride the school bus, and therefore would not be allowed to enroll at Naples Elementary.

Patrick would have to either be home-schooled, or enroll in a local school closer to home.

"There is no English-language school in our area," said Terry Mooney, the boys’ mother.

"We tried to put Patrick in the local Italian school for a few months this past year, but he doesn’t speak the language. He became really unhappy and very introverted. It just didn’t work."

Terry Mooney said she told school officials that she would be willing to drive her children to and from school in Naples. She said she was told that wasn’t an option, but DODDS-Europe very recently changed that policy.

"At the request of the parents, DoDDS-E will allow kindergarten through second graders to ride the bus, but we do not endorse this as the best option for young children. If parents wish to drive their students to Naples Elementary they may do so," officials said in a written statement.

"We were just told of this Wednesday, so we are able to enroll Patrick today," Terry Mooney said Friday. The term begins today for all students except kindergartners, who start school the following week.

Officials said they are providing a bus with toilet facilities and a safety attendant. Approximately 13 students from kindergarten through 6th grade will ride the bus.

Terry Mooney said she volunteered to ride the bus with her three children.

"It will give me peace of mind knowing that if they have to make a 95-minute trip to and from school, at least I’ll be with them."


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