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GARMISCH, Germany — Three schools in DODDS-Europe that were scheduled to close in June will now remain open for the 2006-2007 school year.

The schools — Volkel Elementary School in the Netherlands, Kleine Brogel Elementary School in Belgium, and Livorno High School in Italy — have about 90 pupils total.

Livorno and Kleine Brogel, with about 25 pupils each, were scheduled to close for efficiency reasons, according to Diana Ohman, director of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe. Volkel was to close because it did not meet the new security requirements ordered by the U.S. European Command.

Ohman said Livorno and Kleine Brogel will stay open because parents who were transferred there were told their children would have DODDS schools to attend.

“Then the rules changed,” Ohman said.

At Volkel, Ohman said, it would not have been cost-efficient to spend $750,000 to bring the old building located outside the nearby Dutch air base into security compliance. Also, its lease is expiring at the end of the school year. The Volkel school is going to relocate to inside the Dutch base for 2006-2007 and perhaps beyond.

The decisions to keep the schools open were made to allow continuity for the pupils while also giving parents another year to assess their children’s schooling options.

“It’s been a mixed reaction; we’ve kind of been on a roller- coaster,” said Cathy Magni, the principal at Livorno, which was to change into a school for only kindergartners through eighth- graders while the high school students went elsewhere.

“For the kids, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to make them feel good about where they’d be going next year,” Magni said.

“Of course, the parents are very happy and satisfied that DODDS listened to them.”

Sam Menniti, assistant superintendent for DODDS Mediterranean District, said parents are happy with the decision. “It gives the people who are there a little more time to plan,” he said.

The reprieve was good news for parents such as Air Force Capt. John Ponton, who has a fifth-grader at Volkel Elementary School.

“We had to give a lot of information and fight very hard for that, but we’re really happy,” said Ponton, mission support flight commander for the 703rd Munitions Support Squadron.

Ponton said if the school were eliminated, the children would have been required to make a one-hour or longer bus ride each day to an international school, and that there would have been no provisions for children with special needs.

“We just feel it’s the right decision based on our location and the needs of the students,” Ponton said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Kent Harris contributed to this story.


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