Pusan American School aims to make its final year a memorable one
January 7, 2006
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Staff and students at Pusan American School have entered 2006 knowing the new year is also the school’s last, and they aim to “go out with a bang.”
The school will close this summer after 46 years because it’s located inside the Army’s Camp Hialeah, which the U.S. military will vacate later this year and turn over to South Korea in 2007.
Ninety-five students in grades pre-K through 12 attend the school, which is part of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools System.
“There’s a sadness in the closing but there’s also a celebration — to go out with a bang and make the year a very memorable year,” said Principal Keith Henson.
Closing Camp Hialeah comes as part of a larger plan. The United States is shutting down many installations around the peninsula before shifting the bulk of its forces to two regional hubs, one in Pyeongtaek, the other in the Daegu-Busan region.
U.S. military units and organizations are to vacate Camp Hialeah by August. The installation is to be shut in December.
Pusan American opened in 1960 as a small elementary school, adding a high school in 1967. It now has about 30 staff, including teachers, clerical and other employees, Henson said.
Of this year’s students, 71 are from the U.S. military community. The other 24 are U.S. citizens whose families work in the Busan area. They pay tuition, ranging from about $14,640 to $16,830 per year, Henson said
Senior DODDS officials will come to the school in February and brief parents on “what their schooling options are after Pusan American School,” Henson said.
Tuition-paying families will have to find other schools for their children to attend next school year, he said.
Henson said staff, almost all of whom are DODDS employees, will “either relocate into positions in Korea or will enter the worldwide transfer program, the normal DODDS transfer program.” Although some are saddened the school will close, the staff has been working to keep spirits high, focus on studies and ensure the transition to closing will have the least possible impact on students, Henson said.
“There’s not a sense of depression,” he said. “We need to make this the best year in the history of the school.”
The school is “still in the planning stage” of a variety of special events to mark its closing, Henson said. They’ll include a farewell re-gathering of “anyone who might have been associated with Pusan. … Sort of ‘Farewell, Pusan American School’… a final reunion.”
The school also plans to host several gatherings of teachers, staff and parents. “We’ll just get together in a kind of social atmosphere and keep the mood up and have a good time too,” he said.
Henson also wants the school to hold special cultural and student exchange events with the South Korean community in Pusan.
The movers will pull up about two weeks after classes end, Henson said.
“The way I understand it,” he said, “when we get done with school here … we’ll literally get stuff packed up and start getting it on its way.”