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The old school had five buildings, no bells and no public-address system.

So when the new digs opened Sept. 2, people were feeling good.

“There was a buzz among the kids — for sure,” said Maureen Belanger, principal of Hohenfels Middle/High School, which has its official grand opening Friday.

The 70,000-square-foot school at the Combat Maneuver Training Center has bells. Whistles, too. Plus new labs for robotics, computers and electrical engineering, a separate gym and a new stage with state-of-the-art lighting and sound.

And it has room.

“The kids were most struck by the space,” said Belanger, who has been principal for four years. “With the German way of building, they have very big halls. They’ve added furniture in the hallways where there are places to sit down.

“There’s closed-circuit TV in the hallways. So if something real important is going on during break or lunch, they can turn that on.”

The $13 million school took 18 months to build. It serves 274 pupils in grades 7-12 and has nearly 30 teachers.

Friday’s ceremony runs from 9 to 10 a.m. Dr. Joseph D. Tafoya, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, will be on hand along with representatives of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe, local German city officials and the German contractors.

Belanger said the facility will enable more modern programs to be established for all pupils, whether they are headed for college or straight into the workplace.

“Very few of the technical and professional programs we would have been able to implement in the old facility,” Belanger said.

The Hohenfels military community is expected to grow even if other bases of the U.S. military in Europe are decreased or eliminated during the transformation being considered by the Department of Defense.

The old school in Nuremberg closed in 1995, Belanger said, and children and teachers have been making do at the temporary facility next to the elementary school.

“It’s so wonderful to come to work every morning,” Belanger said. “Not only because of the big halls, but it’s airy, it’s light.

“We were in very dim quarters before.”

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