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European edition, Saturday, August 18, 2007

STUTTGART, Germany — Rocked into action by a vocal group of angry parents, Stuttgart school and garrison officials on Friday changed school zones to ease the strain on its youngest students.

Kindergarten and elementary students who would have ridden a bus across the city for more than an hour each way, every day, will now attend the much closer Patch Elementary School at Patch Barracks.

However, some middle-school students will have to bear the burden of the long commute.

Students in grades six to eight from select towns will attend Robinson Elementary-Middle School, located on the city’s north side. This will help lessen the overcrowding at Boeblingen Elementary-Middle School, which is located south of the city near the epicenter of the Stuttgart military community.

About 100 students are affected by the rezoning. A town hall meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Patch Theater on Patch Barracks to discuss the new plan.

The change of plans was prompted on Wednesday when parents at a town hall meeting lambasted officials who unveiled a plan that would have puts kids as young as 5 on an often-unsupervised bus for up to 90 minutes, twice a day.

Halfway through the meeting, the new Army Garrison Stuttgart commander, Col. Richard M. Pastore Jr., declared the plan null and void and told the jeering crowd that the approach would be rethought.

Less than 48 hours later, the new plan was released.

“Paramount in our deliberations were concerns voiced by parents during the town hall meeting,” Pastore wrote on Friday in an e-mail to parents. “With particular emphasis on minimizing overall disruption to the school population and minimizing any impacts to our youngest of children.”

Pastore, who was unavailable Friday for comment, also wrote that the garrison and school were trying to recruit adult attendants to ride along on each bus route. Parents were being asked to volunteer.

Department of Defense Dependent Schools-Europe currently require that only 55 percent of bus routes be chaperoned.

Stuttgart has struggled the last two years to balance its schools’ enrollments. Böblingen is located on Panzer Casern not far from Patch Barracks, home of the U.S. European Command. Families coming into the Stuttgart community often choose to live near there, thus swelling the already overcrowded school.

On the other side of town, the military population in and around Robinson Barracks has dwindled significantly, as had its school’s enrollment. As a result, an overflow of students from the Böblingen area was being bused there.

Enrollments for all the Stuttgart schools are expected to increase as the new, Stuttgart-based U.S. Africa Command continues hiring personnel over the next year.

Mike Thompson, the Bavaria District Superintendent, said the change in plans will require administrators, teachers and other personnel to make some adjustments in advance of the first day of school on Aug. 27.

“We will likely have to shift some resources (books, furniture, etc.) as well as personnel resources, although we want to keep that at a minimum as we see continued growth occurring,” Thompson said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

“Timing will be critical, particularly in the hiring actions that will have to be accomplished. There will also be individual cases and concerns that will have to be looked at that might involve some of the students.”

Changes to plan

1. No elementary grades students registered in the Böblingen Elementary/Middle School area last year will be bused to the Robinson Elementary/Middle School this year

2. K-5 students from 10 towns who had attended Böblingen Elementary/Middle School last year will now attend the Patch Elementary School. The towns are: Schafhausen, Daetzingen, Grafenau-Doeffingen, Darmsheim, Dagersheim, Aidlingen-Deufringen, Aidlingen, Nufringen, Gartringen and Ehningen.

3. Middle School students from seven towns who had attended Böblingen Elementary/Middle School last year will now attend Robinson Elementary/ Middle School. The towns are: Schafhausen, Daetzingen, Grafenau-Doeffingen, Darmsheim, Dagersheim, Aidlingen-Deufringen and Aidlingen.

4. There will be transportation provided by DODDS from Patch Elementary to Panzer School Age Services.

Meeting scheduled

A town hall meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the Patch Theater, Patch Barracks, to discuss the revisions to zoning changes.

Source: U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

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