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Workers clean up after putting final touches on a new, temporary four-classroom structure at Osan Air Base in South Korea. The U.S. military built the structure, as well as a six-classroom structure at Camp Humphreys American Elementary School.

Workers clean up after putting final touches on a new, temporary four-classroom structure at Osan Air Base in South Korea. The U.S. military built the structure, as well as a six-classroom structure at Camp Humphreys American Elementary School. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

PYONGTAEK, South Korea — A repeat of an overcrowding crisis that shook Defense Department schools in Pyongtaek at the start of 2004’s school term appears to have been averted this year, school officials said.

Four temporary classrooms have been set up at Osan American High School and six at Camp Humphreys American Elementary School, both in Pyongtaek, in time for Tuesday’s start of the 2005-06 school year, said Superintendent Charles Toth, Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea in Seoul.

“They’re already staffed, furniture, connectivity for computer access, whiteboards, cabinetry. They’re ready to go,” Toth said Thursday. “As of today, things are progressing very well in providing seats to students interested in attending the DODDS schools across the peninsula.

“That’s not to say we don’t have some enrollment concerns. But at this time it looks good. What does ‘good’ mean? It means the principals are confident we’re not going to have the overcrowding situations we had at the start of the previous school year.”

Still, he added, there are more students in the Humphreys area than there is space in the elementary school. But that’s being handled by providing space at Osan Elementary school for any overages “without impacting on the student-teacher standard.”

The two schools are about 14 miles apart.

Last summer at the two schools, dozens of students — many of them children of civilian contractors — were faced with looking elsewhere for schooling because of an influx of active-duty military families, who have enrollment priority.

DODDS-Korea officials eventually found room for most of those students. But for several weeks starting in late August 2004, the space shortage left vexed parents complaining the enrollment surge had caught officials unprepared.

U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte met with DODDS officials to explore ways of heading off a similar problem this school year. The temporary- classroom plan resulted.

Construction began in June and ended Friday, a USFK spokesman said. The Osan classrooms cost a total of $500,000 and at Humphreys, $650,000.

The four temporary classrooms give Osan American High School a total of 96 new spaces, said DODDS-Korea chief-of-staff Warren Tobin.

Osan’s projected enrollment is 315 students. As of Thursday 367 had enrolled for the new school year, Tobin said. While that figure was 52 students more than projected number, Osan still had enough seats, he said.

“We now enjoy a new facility that will help ease some of the overcrowdedness,” Osan American High School principal Marie Cullen said.

The six temporary classrooms at the Camp Humphreys American Elementary School create about 126 new spaces, Tobin said.

Enrollment at Humphreys was projected at 158 and 201 were enrolled as of Thursday, Tobin said.

But, said Principal Donna Kacmarski, “basically, it looks like we’re going to be able to accommodate the children this year.”

Korea-wide, projected enrollment for the new school year was 4,090, Toth said Thursday, “As of this morning we’re at 4,054.”

Civilian contractor Ray Carswell’s son Nathan was on a waiting list for Osan last year before DODDS found him a place there. This time out, Nathan’s set to enter ninth grade at Osan.

“This was a highly volatile situation last year,” Ray Carswell said Friday. “But Nathan’s in school, so I’m happy and I’m very pleased with the way DODDS has been handling the situation. Everything is looking good.”

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