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The new Vogelweh Elementary School and all other Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Germany, Belgium the Netherlands and Spain will be closed starting March 16, 2019, because of coronavirus concerns.

The new Vogelweh Elementary School and all other Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Germany, Belgium the Netherlands and Spain will be closed starting March 16, 2019, because of coronavirus concerns. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)

All but a handful of the Pentagon’s 66 schools across Europe will be closed to students starting next week as a precaution to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, school and military leaders announced Friday.

Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain will close on Monday, DODEA spokesman Stephen Smith said.

Teachers and school administrators should report to the schools on Tuesday and continue to work, officials said.

DODEA schools in Italy and Bahrain had already closed over coronavirus concerns. Schools in Bahrain have been closed since Feb. 26th, and digital learning plans specific to each grade and teacher have been put in place for students. On Saturday, officials extended the closure until March 24th, in line with Bahraini schools.

Military schools in northern Italy, the epicenter of that country’s outbreak, have also been closed since late February. Schools at Naples and Sigonella in the south closed this week.

DODEA schools in the United Kingdom will stay open for the moment, Smith said, and a decision was pending on whether the kindergarten through 12th grade school in the Turkish capital Ankara would close.

The closures affect more than 24,000 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

No DODEA Europe students, teachers or other employees have tested positive for the virus, Smith said Friday.

The schools are implementing plans for “digital learning” and expect to implement them starting Thursday, DODEA Europe East District superintendent Steven Sanchez said in a note to parents Friday.

Online learning plans will differ for each school, depending on needs and capabilities, Sanchez said. “The expectation is that there will be at least two online live contacts with the teacher and students per class per week,” he said.

DODEA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus situation with military leaders, health officials and host nation partners, Smith said. No firm date has been set for the schools to reopen, he said.

The closures in Germany were announced hours after regional governments around Germany, including in areas with U.S. bases, said they were shutting schools as coronavirus infections continue to rise around the country.

Marcus Kloeckner, Kent Harris and Joshua Karsten contributed to this story.

Svan.jennifer@stripes.com

Twitter: @stripesktown

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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