Grafenwöhr’s German schools anticipating more American students
Stars and Stripes March 8, 2008
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — German schools in Grafenwöhr are expecting an influx of American students with the buildup of U.S. forces in the area.
U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, which includes the nearby military community at Vilseck, is growing rapidly as hundreds of families from the 2nd “Dagger” Brigade will continue to arrive this summer. More are due the following year.
German schools in the area already have some American students and more are expected as the U.S. population increases, Grafenwöhr Mayor Helmuth Wächter said last month.
American students are guaranteed a place at a German school if one parent is German. Even if both their parents are American they will be given a place — free of charge — if there is room, Wächter said.
Laura Meckley, 12, whose father is an American contractor at Grafenwöhr, attends Elly-Heuss Gymnasium, an all-girls school in Weiden. Laura’s mother, Jan, said the reason she sent her daughter to a German school was so she could learn a foreign language and culture.
“I couldn’t speak German when I started (three years ago). Now I’m almost fluent. Most people can’t figure out I’m not German unless they are listening to me really closely,” said Laura, adding that she thinks the German curriculum is better than the one she studied at a school in Maryland.
“We didn’t start on fractions in math until this year, but we picked it up really fast. I did fractions in third grade in the U.S. and didn’t get it at all,” she said.
Latin and English are two of Laura’s subjects this year. She said she’s getting an A in English, even though it is British English.
American kids who attend German schools like the fact that the school day is shorter — 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. — than at Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
Another American contractor working at Grafenwöhr, David Pippin, sends his sons Daniel, 12, Stephen, 10, and Christopher, 7, to German schools in Amberg.
“We felt they would get a better education there than through the DODDS system and we wanted them to experience the culture of Germany and the language while they were young,” he said.
Sending the boys to German schools was not as hard as Pippin thought it would be, he said.
“The first six months were tough because neither of us speak much German, but after that the boys really started to pick it up and they are quiet fluent now,” he said.
“They read and write in German and they are on par with the German kids in their grade level.”
Daniel Pippin, who attends Gregor Mendel Gymnasium, said he’s studying German, English, Latin, French, Spanish, Greek, math, science, chemistry, history, music, art and sport. Learning German was hard at first, but he’s fluent 3½ years after he started.
Gregor Mendel Gymnasium principal Edward Konig, said it is normal to have two or three American kids attending each year.
“They are adapting at school very smoothly and rapidly. I have never experienced problems with American kids in our school,” he said.
All the German students speak English from their first year at school so they can communicate with the American kids immediately, and the Americans can converse with their friends in German before they finish their first year at a German school, he said.
Americans are welcome at German schools in Amberg, Konig added.
“In Amberg, we are very familiar with military people. There is a big military community in Vilseck and military people are normal,” he said. “In Nuremberg if you say your father is in the military people will ask questions, but in Amberg you won’t get those questions.”