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Vilseck’s Noah Russo, right, is guarded by a Stuttgart player in a home game Jan. 7, 2022. Days after announcing that students must be vaccinated to travel to and from school activities, DODEA-Europe announced an exception. Students can now request permission to arrange their own transportation for school functions.
Vilseck’s Noah Russo, right, is guarded by a Stuttgart player in a home game Jan. 7, 2022. Days after announcing that students must be vaccinated to travel to and from school activities, DODEA-Europe announced an exception. Students can now request permission to arrange their own transportation for school functions. (Immanuel Johnson/Stars and Stripes)

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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Defense Department schools in Europe are making an exception to a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students traveling to extracurricular activities by allowing students to arrange their own transportation.

Students ineligible for team travel because of the new rule may request permission to travel by themselves, the Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe said Tuesday. The exception goes into effect immediately.

It is to ensure “as much participation as safely as possible,” said Stephen Smith, a DODEA-Europe spokesman. “We’re allowing the schools flexibility based on (local) requirements.”

Families that want to drive their students to and from events will need to submit a form to their school administration providing details of their planned travel, DODEA said.

Decisions will be determined on an individual basis, taking into consideration host nation requirements and military public health and installation command guidance, Smith said.

On Thursday, education officials announced that students in the European region would have to be vaccinated to take school-sponsored transportation to DODEA events, a requirement driven by host nation rules and, in some cases, bus companies, Smith said.

Passengers 18 and older may also be required to show proof of a vaccine booster shot or a negative COVID-19 test, depending on country regulations and any rules transportation providers may have, education officials said.

Participation in athletic and other extracurricular events will still be dictated by country and installation policies, Smith said.

The German state of Rheinland-Pfalz, home to Ramstein, Spangdahlem, Kaiserslautern and Baumholder schools, requires children ages 13 to 17 show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from COVID-19 to participate in indoor sports. Those who are unvaccinated must present a negative test taken within the last 24 hours.

Some DODEA athletic events this weekend were canceled amid an uptick in coronavirus infections, including the Wiesbaden-SHAPE girls basketball game scheduled Friday.

Health officials advised cancellation because of the number of players identified as close contacts of people testing positive, according to a letter Monday from the Wiesbaden High School principal to families and staff members.

“Students that are vaccinated are allowed to participate in practice under the condition that they remain masked the entire time, even during drills and scrimmages,” the letter said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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