Nine additional kindergarten classes will welcome students this fall at Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe as part of an effort to reduce kindergarten classroom sizes at military schools around the world.

Each of the extra classrooms will be staffed by a teacher and a full-time, educational aide.

In Germany, one kindergarten class each has been added at Sembach, Landstuhl and Hohenfels elementary schools, while two classes have been added at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Heidelberg, according to information from DODDS-Europe officials. Elsewhere, Lakenheath Elementary School in the United Kingdom gets another kindergarten class, while in Italy, Aviano Elementary School and Sigonella Elementary School each added one.

Across the Department of Defense Education Activity, a total of 19 more kindergarten classes in 14 schools will open their doors to children this fall, the first step in bringing all kindergarten classrooms in line with an 18-to-1 pupil teacher ratio.

Plans for the lower student-to-teacher ratio were announced in the spring by DODEA director Shirley Miles. The ratio had ranged from 24-to-1 to 29-to-1, according to DODEA officials.

"I believe that is absolutely the right thing to do," said Nancy Bresell, the new DODDS-Europe director. "Our kindergarten class sizes are quite large. Even though there was an aide in the classroom, still, when you’re looking at 20 to 27 or so little 5-year-olds, it’s quite a challenge."

DODDS-Europe, Bresell said, still has a ways to go to bring every kindergarten classroom in Europe down to the desired ratio.

The changes were made initially in schools that had the most crowded classrooms and also had the space to add a class, she said.

"In many locations, we did not have early childhood classrooms already in place," she said. Those classrooms require extra features, such as toilets and kitchen facilities.

Nine schools are being considered for additional kindergarten classrooms in the 2010-11 school year, Bresell said.

Classroom renovations or a temporary building may be needed at those locations to accommodate the extra kindergarten classes, she said.

While kindergarten class sizes are getting smaller, any changes to middle-school staffing in DODEA are on hold, say school officials.

Last spring, a DODEA proposal made public to slash more than 350 jobs and increase student-teacher ratios in middle schools generated a lot of concern and criticism from teachers and the Federal Education Association, which represents DODEA educators.

Miles has said the proposal was intended to generate feedback and that the issue was still being studied.

FEA President Michael Priser said last week that Miles told him at a face-to-face meeting in August that she was "definitely cutting staffing at the middle schools."

But the same week DODEA spokesman Frank O’Gara week that "no decisions have been made to proceed with any reductions or cuts at the middle-school level."

In other staffing changes, DODEA is hiring 160 supervisory support specialists, including 65 in Europe, to work in schools with 250 or more students.

Those employees will assist principals with the day-to-day business operations of running a school, DODEA officials said, such as coordinating bus schedules and ordering supplies.

"It will free the principal up to spend more time in the classrooms working with teachers, supervising delivery of instruction …" O’Gara said. In Europe, about half of those positions have been filled so far, Bresell said.

author picture
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.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now