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The number of schools competing in the American high-school sports league in Italy is growing by one this year, thanks to the addition of a private school outside the military system.

International School of Florence brings to eight the number of schools competing in the league run by the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe. Half of them are privately run schools not affiliated with the U.S. military.

"We’re really excited about them joining the league," said Karen Seadore, athletic director for DODDS-Europe.

Though no DODDS schools are set to close this year, it’s likely that several – mainly in Germany – will be shutting their doors in the next few years as the U.S. military draws down.

"As we get smaller, we’ll certainly welcome the competition," Seadore said. "And it’s always been good competition."

DODDS athletes have competed with their counterparts from private schools for decades. Schools such as Black Forest Academy in Germany and International School of Brussels, Belgium, regularly visit U.S. bases for competitions.

In Italy, that’s been the case with two schools from Rome (American Overseas School of Rome and Marymount International) and the American School of Milan. Some of the students are Americans whose parents work for the State Department or private enterprises abroad. But many students are from host nations or third countries whose parents want their children educated in an English language-based system.

The school in Florence, established in 1952, has about a dozen dependents of Americans based at Camp Darby. It has a high-school enrollment of 133, according to Seadore. That’s about half the population of Aviano, putting it in Division IV.

The American high school in Livorno closed at the end of the 2006-2007 year due to continually low enrollment.

Seadore said the Florence school won’t be fielding an American-style football team, but it is scheduled to participate in several other sports this fall.

She said that initially it could be a challenge for the school to field competitive teams. Students at host nation schools in Italy, like in most of Europe, often compete on club teams that aren’t affiliated with their schools. High schools rarely field teams to compete against each other.

Camp Darby will be host to several of the school’s contests when other schools travel to play Florence.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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