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BAMBERG, Germany — The Defense Department has approved funding for a high school for the U.S. military community in Schweinfurt, DODDS-Europe announced Thursday.

When the Würzburg military community closed, students attending school there from Schweinfurt were forced to go to Bamberg schools. They have been making the 37-mile commute to Bamberg since the 2008-2009 school year. The long bus trips became a quality of life issue for some students and their parents in the heavily deployed communities. Some students would spend three hours a day on the bus, said Harvey Gerry DODDS-Europe chief of staff.

“The distance creates challenges for parents and students who want to be involved in school activities — we needed to address that,” said Gerry.

A study conducted by BaurConsult concluded that renovations on the current Schweinfurt middle school would be a “suitable interim solution.” The initial year will result in $2.4 million in start-up costs and renovations. Each additional fiscal year there would be a $1.1 million increase in the DODEA budget.

The plan is to combine the middle and elementary school students in the former elementary school on Askren Manor and establish the high school in the old middle school building on Yorktown Village, said Department of Defense Dependent Schools-Europe officials. They are preparing for more than 170 students to attend classes in August.

The majority of the renovations will occur at the elementary/middle school, according to a DODDS-Europe press release.

“My staff will immediately coordinate with the Schweinfurt community to develop a feasible and effective time line to implement the interim solution as soon as possible,” Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley wrote in a June 28 memorandum.

There was uncertainty about the future of the Bamberg and Schweinfurt communities since they were not on the list of enduring bases. Officials decided to send the Schweinfurt students to Bamberg as a temporary solution. That solution is no longer temporary, said Gerry.

The future of the communities is still largely uncertain.

“There has been no DOD decision or public announcement to retain or close either Bamberg or Schweinfurt,” wrote Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for US Army Europe in an emailed response to query. He noted the ongoing DOD decision on retaining three brigade combat teams in Europe after 2015.

“Final basing decisions and any announcement are contingent upon the outstanding Army decision as to which BCT will leave Europe,” he wrote. “Regardless, we know both communities are required to support USAREUR’s current soldier population of 40,500.”

“If Schweinfurt is declared an enduring military community, then construction of a new Schweinfurt High School would be required as a permanent solution to accommodate 200 students,” the undersecretary of defense memo states. The new school would cost about $34 million.

Extracurricular activities will not be affected, said Gerry, adding that steps are being made to adjust sports schedules for next season.

The Bamberg school staff will be cut in half, but this process is a regular process in the highly mobile DODEA community. Teachers who have to adjust to the transformation will have priority on being placed at the new school, said Gerry noting that the process is still in the early stages.

The logistics of establishing the Schweinfurt high school are being made easier by the use of old equipment and other supplies from Mannheim High, which closed this year, the DODDS-Europe release states.

blottenbergerd@estripes.osd.mil

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