Number of USFK school-age children on the rise
SEOUL — As the number of command-sponsored families in South Korea continues to climb, U.S. Forces Korea officials are working on how they will handle the expected increase in school-age children.
According to USFK spokesman Dave Palmer, the number of command sponsorships for military families is expected to more than double next fiscal year, from the current 2,135 to 4,350. Palmer said the "desired end state" is 14,250 command-sponsored families in South Korea, though he didn’t say when that would be reached.
The command is playing close to the vest any plans for accommodating additional Department of Defense Dependents Schools students.
"We are working with [Department of Defense Education Activity] and also the [Republic of Korea] Ministry of Education on various ideas and initiatives," Palmer said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday. Stripes first queried the command about its plans several weeks ago.
When asked what initiatives it was considering and how the Korean Ministry of Education was involved, Palmer said only that "we are still in the planning stages for these initiatives."
An official from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said they knew of no plans being coordinated with USFK.
"We’ve never heard of that," the official said. "If we were involved in schools on U.S. military bases, we would definitely know about it. We do not know about it."
Palmer said he couldn’t provide projections about next year’s school enrollment.
"It would be inappropriate to speculate, as those numbers have not been determined," he said.
However, he said, any increase in enrollment beyond current numbers would require hiring additional teachers. He did not indicate whether any new teachers were projected for the coming school year.
"Our planners routinely analyze projected enrollments and the staffing allocations needed to support school operations in Korea and around the world," Palmer said. "Once we are done with that analysis and have all the data we need from the commands, we’ll be able to staff schools in accordance with our staffing guidelines."
Also to be answered is what increased enrollments would mean for non-command-sponsored students and tuition payers currently attending DODDS schools, though Palmer did say the command would do "everything possible" to accommodate them.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this story.