Some shut-out students in Korea find places at other schools
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Students on the waiting list to start the new school year at Osan American High School won’t have to miss any more school days. The bad news is that long bus rides await students who opt to accept school officials’ offer to attend schools on Yongsan Garrison.
Effective immediately, the 43 students awaiting word on whether they’ll get into the overcrowded school will be allowed to attend Seoul American High School and Seoul American Middle School on Yongsan Garrison, officials at the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea district in Seoul said Tuesday.
“Seoul has opened their doors to the Osan overflow,” said Warren Tobin, DODDS-Korea chief of staff. “We’ve got enough space for all of them.”
Those on the list are Category 2 students — children of civilian contractors working for the U.S. military at Osan Air Base and the Army’s Camp Humphreys. They’ve been on a waiting list since DODDS schools opened Aug. 30 because of an influx of Category 1 students from active-duty military families, who have priority in DODDS enrollment.
DODDS officials said they’re still working out plans to seat 35 students from non-active-duty families at Camp Humphreys elementary school, said Charles Toth, DODDS-Korea district superintendent. The students are in Category 3, children of nonappropriated fund employees or from military families without command sponsorship.
“By the end of this week or early next week,” Toth said Tuesday, “we hope to have all students … accommodated.”
Osan American High School had room for its Category 2 10th- and 12th-graders and admitted them when school started. But the 43 students in other grades were told they’d have to wait until Sept. 13 for word on whether any vacancies had opened.
School officials said they set that date to allow time for the enrollment picture to clarify — to learn whether any Category 1 students would not show up or whether children of parents who reported for duty in the region after school started might arrive and enroll.
If Osan announces vacancies on Sept. 13, those students on the waiting list will be given a choice.
“The Category 2 students awaiting decision on capacities at Osan High School are welcome to enroll in Seoul, and if and when capacity will allow them entry to Osan, they can return,” Tobin said.
Invitations to fill vacancies would be based on the “availability date” of their contractor parents’ official orders, said Carol Czerw, Osan American’s principal.
“On the contractor’s orders it’s called ‘availability date.’ That’s the date we prioritize by, that means the date that they’re available to go to work in this country,” Czerw said.
Those students who opt to attend Seoul American would have to pay for their own transportation, officials said. Shuttle buses run daily between Yongsan and both Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys. One-way fare for the two-hour Camp Humphreys-Yongsan trip is $4.80; the 70-minute Osan Air Base-Yongsan trip is $4.25.
To enroll at the Yongsan schools, students will have to pick up a copy of their student record at Osan American High School and bring it to the registration office at Seoul American, Tobin said.
Meanwhile, Toth met for about 45 minutes Friday with the top U.S. military commander in South Korea, Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte. They discussed the Osan-Humphreys enrollment problem and DODDS enrollment Korea-wide.
Toth said Brig. Gen. John A. Macdonald, Installation Management Agency Korea Region Office director, also attended the meeting in LaPorte’s Seoul office.
Officials will examine what measures are needed to avert further overcrowding as the U.S. military proceeds in coming years with plans to turn the Osan-Humphreys region into a major troop hub, he added.
“I know this is something that will be addressed in the ensuing months,” Toth said.
Several contractors welcomed news of the Yongsan option but said the situation still poses problems.
“It’s good that they did open up some spaces at Yongsan for us,” said Richard Ames, a contractor working with Army aviation units at Camp Humphreys.
His son Levi, 16, and daughter Abigail, 14, are on the waiting list for Osan American.
“But for us the issue of transporting our kids to Seoul — that would be a barrier,” Ames said. “I just can’t imagine my kids riding a bus for an hour and a half, two hours, whatever it takes depending on traffic — and that’s each way. So for us, if our children are not able to get in at Osan, we plan on home-schooling.”
They’ll also explore having their children take certain college-level courses on the Internet, he said.
Richard Song, a contractor who works with the Air Force at Osan Air Base, has a daughter, Loria, 15, on Osan’s waiting list for the 11th grade. He’d kept in contact with DODDS-Korea officials, who let her enroll at Yongsan on Friday, he said.
“I’m really glad they came forth with this option,” Song said. “Because of that, my daughter’s enrolled and at the same time she’s on the waiting list. On Monday morning we’ll find out if she can be admitted to Osan or not, and we’ll make a switch if necessary.”
Osan Air Base contractor Ray Carswell’s son, Nathan, 13, is on Osan’s list.
“I’m very ecstatic about that,” Ray Carswell said Tuesday on hearing of the Yongsan option. “I’d have to go up there tomorrow to enroll him, and he goes to school on Thursday. We may just wait until next week, until Monday, to find out.
“If I had known about this last Friday,” Carswell said, “he would have definitely been in, he would have started school today, at Yongsan.”