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Summer is history for hundreds of American school kids in Belgium, Netherlands and a bit of Germany.

The 2007-08 school year officially began Tuesday for SHAPE International School near Mons, Belgium. And the day before, about 550 students, from preschool to high school, returned to classes at AFNORTH International School in Brunssum, Netherlands.

They aren’t the only Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe students back in class this week. Students attending Geilenkirchen Elementary School in Germany begin classes Tuesday. Bahrain School opens its doors on Wednesday.

The rest of the students in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe answer the bell next week.

Adam Keasey, a seventh-grader at AFNORTH, probably summed up the sentiments of a lot of kids about now.

“Summer vacation was too short,” Adam said in a telephone interview Monday. “At my old school [in Illinois], I got three months, not two.”

AFNORTH, SHAPE and Bahrain schools follow a calendar that is moderately different from the rest of DODDS. That’s due to the schools’ multinational, multicultural character, given the nature of NATO.

At Adam’s school, for example, he and his classmates get a week off in October and another one-week respite in February, in addition to the traditional Christmas and Easter pauses. The rub is that the school year goes deeper into June.

The longer school year and shorter summer stretch don’t bother Arianna Embry, also a seventh-grader.

“I think it is great,” Arianna said of the start of the school year. “I get to see my friends again. Summer vacation was too long.”

Kiara Nunn, a 17-year-old senior at AFNORTH, split the difference.

“It’s great,” Kiara said, “but it’s also kind of sad at the same time.”

Kiara is beginning her sixth and final year at AFNORTH, so this year will hold added meaning to her. She spent part of her summer vacation visiting prospective colleges and universities in North Carolina and Georgia.

While Kiara contemplates college, scores of younger students will have their little hands full getting acclimated with the ABCs of school.

Alice Herring, the principal of the U.S. elementary school section at SHAPE, said a big outdoor celebration is planned for Tuesday to welcome the new students — and to let some parents know that their child is in good hands.

“Afterwards,” she said of the celebration, “I’m out there handing out the Kleenex.”


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