GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — "It’s the biggest school I’ve ever seen," said 10-year-old Albert Leuauti as he wandered through the hallways of the new Netzaberg elementary and middle schools with his family.
The schools — housed in a massive complex which will cater to more than 1,100 students from the Grafenwöhr and Vilseck communities — open Monday but workers were still putting the finishing touches on classrooms and other facilities this week.
The middle school includes three floors of classrooms, a massive gymnasium and a football-field-size courtyard where students will take recess.
Each classroom has a large bulletin board outside its door in the hallway where teachers have posted welcoming messages for the students on their first day of school.
Netzaberg Middle School Principal Elizabeth Childs said the school’s wide hallways and stairwells are "kid friendly," with good use of natural lighting and a great view of the surrounding countryside from the school’s hilltop perch.
The schools were formally turned over to Department of Defense Dependents Schools by German builders in July, and teachers are moving equipment there from the temporary Grafenwöhr Middle School, she said.
Students who live in Netzaberg will walk to the school, which is surrounded by off-post military housing, Childs said.
"Some parents and kids are doing a trial run today to see how long it takes," she said.
The schools share a cafeteria, and they are linked by a hallway.
The elementary school includes two floors of classrooms and three outdoor play areas.
Barbara Mueller, principal of the elementary school, said the new buildings are good but the faculty will be the most important asset for the school.
"We have an experienced faculty coming in from all over DODDS with lots of enthusiasm and expertise. They will provide an excellent educational program for the children," she said.
The elementary school includes special needs teachers; gifted student teachers; speech therapists; and music, art and physical education teachers, she said.
The Leuauti family was among many students and parents who stopped by the school on Thursday to check out what was in store for the new school year.
Albert’s mom, Unu, said her husband, Sgt. Pauulu Leuauti, recently moved to Grafenwöhr from Schweinfurt with his unit, the 172nd Infantry Brigade.
"We live in Netzaberg so the school is right where we are," she said.