Seoul American Middle School renovations planned
SEOUL — Problems with rats, mold and cold at Seoul American Middle School will be tackled this summer in a $600,000 renovation project.
The Department of Defense Dependents Schools—Pacific announced Thursday that workers will make improvements to buildings 3560 through 3565, six structures commonly referred to as the "huts," which were built in 1970 and "are overdue for both interior and exterior repairs."
"We are fully committed to being flexible and creative in finding ways to better serve our current students," DODDS Korea District Superintendent Irby Miller said in a news release. "We are focused on solutions that will meet both our current and projected enrollment needs so we can comfortably welcome even more families."
Stars and Stripes first reported on problems at the school in Tuesday’s editions. That day, the school’s conditions also came under scrutiny from Army Secretary John McHugh, who inspected the facilities during a three-day visit to South Korea.
"It clearly has some challenges," McHugh said of the school. "I think we all want to make sure we’re doing right by our students."
Mold, rat infestation, insufficient air and heating systems, overcrowding and the smell of raw sewage in one classroom were among problems school staff described to Stars and Stripes.
DODDS-Pacific spokesman Charly Hoff said some of the renovations will include $106,300 to provide heat pump units, $33,000 to upgrade bathroom facilities, $107,300 to replace carpets with floor tile, and $88,000 to repair sidewalks and perform other work outside the school buildings.
"This is just the beginning," Hoff said. "We are going to begin looking at the other facilities across the Seoul schools complex for additional improvement projects."
School personnel have said the facilities were allowed to deteriorate because plans have long called for Seoul American Middle School to close in 2012, when most troops in and north of Seoul were to be consolidated to the south at Camp Humphreys. However, U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp said recently that the move will probably not take place for another five or six years.
That has DODDS officials in South Korea re-evaluating where money is spent as the number of students continues to increase thanks to a USFK push to allow more troops to bring their families with them for longer tours of duty in South Korea.
"Solutions will take into account the revised timeline for planned moves from Yongsan to Camp Humphreys, as well as identifying and programming resources to adequately maintain existing facilities until the planned moves occur," the DODDS release said.
The number of command-sponsored troops here has more than doubled in the past two years, from 1,700 to 3,900. The number of students at Seoul American Middle School has risen from 543 to more than 600 during the past year.
Elise Hampton, chair of the middle school’s advisory committee, said news of the planned renovations is "absolutely wonderful."
"I don’t have a spreadsheet in front of me of all that is going to be done," she said. "I’m hoping that amount will suffice. If it does not, I would hope they would step up to the plate and do whatever else needs to be done."
DODDS-Pacific Director Diana Ohman said the projects will be a "top priority" this summer. "Our students and families deserve good school facilities, and we are going to take these concerns head-on," she said.