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BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Less than two months after stating there was no immediate plan to shutdown Neubruecke Elementary, DODDS-Europe announced Wednesday that the school will be closing at the end of the school year because of dwindling enrollment.

In a letter to parents, Linda L. Curtis, Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe deputy director, stated that students will be assigned next school year to Smith Elementary in Baumholder.

“I recognize a change of this magnitude may initially cause concern regarding future educational arrangements for your children. I assure you the move will benefit students and families by providing the broadest scope of programs available,” Curtis stated.

The transfer to Smith, which is about 13 miles east of Neubruecke, will ensure that all students have access to programs such as art, music, host nation and physical education, according to DODDS-Europe.

Neubruecke Elementary, located in the village of Neubruecke, serves the Baumholder community and children from Strassburg Kaserne in nearby Idar-Oberstein. It currently has an enrollment of about 115 students, but next year the number is projected to drop to just 53, according to Margret Menzies, a DODDS-Europe spokeswoman.

The decline is linked to the upcoming closure of Strassburg Kaserne, home to the 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment. That unit, which includes about 495 soldiers and 740 family members, is slated to relocate to Fort Lewis, Wash., later this year.

Wednesday’s announcement, however, was a reverse from what a DODDS-Europe official said last month about the fate of the school.

In December, a DODDS-Europe official told Stars and Stripes that the anticipated closure of Strassburg would not affect enrollment enough to force Neubruecke’s closure.

However, between then and now the situation continued to be re-examined and discussed with garrison officials in Baumholder, Menzies said.

“The decision is based on [the departure] of 1-94. It left the numbers really low,” she said.

There was much discussion and “back and forth” before a final decision was reached, according to Menzies.

Bus routes for students still are being worked on. Rides, however, will not exceed 30 minutes, Menzies said.

As for Neubruecke’s 12 teachers — all will be offered positions at other Kaiserslautern District schools.

The Baumholder community’s other elementary schools are Smith Elementary, with an enrollment of about 370, and Wetzel, with about 445 students.

The recommendation to close Neubruecke now goes to Department of Defense Education Activity in Arlington, Va., for final approval.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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