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STUTTGART, Germany — In anticipation of an enrollment spike at area schools, district officials will be meeting with parents of Patch Elementary School students Wednesday to discuss possible ways to deal with a looming squeeze that could alter where some of the children attend class next year.

Frank Roehl, the superintendent for the Heidelberg School District, will attend the session, which kicks off at 6 p.m. at the Patch Elementary gym.

"Everyone in the greater Stuttgart community is aware of the impact on all services and operations to include the DoDDS schools, due to increased stationing of military, civilian and contractor personnel," Roehl wrote in a Jan. 22 letter to Patch parents. "The objective of this meeting is to allow for an exchange of information and examination of possible solutions."

In recent months, district, school and military leaders have been meeting to get a handle on the issue and look at the range of options for absorbing more students next year.

On Wednesday, some of those leaders will be asking for the opinions of families in the school community. Those who can’t attend should submit their questions and comments to the Patch Elementary office.

One scenario being considered by education and local officials is shifting some students from Patch Elementary to Robinson Elementary. Doing so would free up space at the elementary school, which could in turn be used by Patch High School next door. Already short on space, the high school is the place most likely to see a surge in attendance.

Roehl was unavailable for comment on Friday, but in a recent interview with Stripes he said shifting fifth-graders to Robinson next year would affect about 120 students.

The establishment of U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart has led to an influx of personnel. When fully staffed, AFRICOM will have about 1,300 military and civilian workers. Most of the military side is already in place, but about 300 civilian jobs will be filled during 2009.

The subsequent increase in school enrollment is likely to take place at the high-school level since contractors tend to be older and less likely to have children in elementary school, Roehl has said. And since there’s only one high school in Stuttgart, making room at the elementary school would likely be the simplest option.

A less appealing, and more unlikely option, would be to institute a broader redistricting, Roehl stated last month.

"Our goal is to ensure we provide the best possible educational environment for all students in the greater Stuttgart community and look forward to a rational discussion of this topic," Roehl wrote in his Jan. 22 letter to parents.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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