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Students at Bahrain Elementary, Middle and High School are set to return to their campus Sunday, nearly three weeks after the school was closed because of significant water damage from a major rainstorm that hit the Persian Gulf region April 15-16, 2024.

Students at Bahrain Elementary, Middle and High School are set to return to their campus Sunday, nearly three weeks after the school was closed because of significant water damage from a major rainstorm that hit the Persian Gulf region April 15-16, 2024. (Shannon Renfroe/Stars and Stripes)

MANAMA, Bahrain — Students at the Department of Defense Education Activity’s school in Bahrain are set to return to classrooms Sunday, nearly three weeks after water damage caused by torrential rainfall forced the campus in Juffair to close. 

The 564 pupils at Bahrain Elementary, Middle and High School had to shift to remote learning as a result of the April 16 shutdown. During an open house Tuesday, public works lead supervisor Cmdr. Riley Smith noted the collaboration in addressing the damage.

“We learned all the different ways water can get into a building that you wouldn’t normally have, but we also learned a lot about coordination with the school and landlord and how it was really a team effort to get it all done,” he said. “No one person or entity did it all.”

The storm, which hit April 15, brought 2.66 inches of rain over two days and wind gusts up to 44 mph, according to the Bahrain meteorological directorate. Flash flooding occurred across the Persian Gulf region, which saw its second-highest rainfall total in 123 years,

The school adapted during the remote learning period to minimize disruption to the academic schedule. 

“Many of my students were concerned about their AP classes because AP tests start next week, and they were concerned they were going to miss instruction and not be prepared,” said Shana Seawright, secondary principal of Bahrain Middle-High School. “But we added extra AP classes in the afternoon for teachers and students to have that time together to get that last-minute information.”

Sailors assigned to Bahrain help restore damaged classrooms April 23, 2024, at the Bahrain Elementary, Middle and High School. More than 35 sailors volunteered to move classroom furniture and expedite repairs. The 24-acre campus in Juffair was closed April 16 following near-record rainfall in the Persian Gulf region.

Sailors assigned to Bahrain help restore damaged classrooms April 23, 2024, at the Bahrain Elementary, Middle and High School. More than 35 sailors volunteered to move classroom furniture and expedite repairs. The 24-acre campus in Juffair was closed April 16 following near-record rainfall in the Persian Gulf region. (Shayla Hamilton/ Navy)

More than 35 sailors from NSA Bahrain volunteered to move classroom furniture and expedite repairs, including carpet removal, ceiling tile replacement, electrical testing and the installation of air purifiers.

Some areas still need repairs, which are scheduled for the summer and expected to be completed before the next school year starts.

“The volunteers were terrific,” Smith said, adding that without their efforts, “it would have been difficult to open as planned.”

DODEA officials in Bahrain worked closely with others to prepare their staff to transition back to physical classrooms.

“We had so much support from subject-matter experts that I could turn my attention to being the educational leader and support our teachers with making sure that our online instruction was up and running quickly as possible,” said Penelope Miller-Smith, principal of Bahrain Elementary School.

“We had over 95% attendance in our first day of instruction, so it showed students wanted to get back into their classrooms, even if that classroom was remote,” she added. 

The original DODEA school in Bahrain was located in Awali and consisted of a teaching principal and three teachers, who catered to 40 students across grades one through eight. It was founded in 1968.

Sailors assigned to Naval Support Activity Bahrain renovate a classroom in Juffair, Bahrain, on April 23, 2024. Juffair is the site of the 24-acre campus of Bahrain Elementary, Middle and High School, which closed April 16 because of extensive water damage from a major rainstorm.

Sailors assigned to Naval Support Activity Bahrain renovate a classroom in Juffair, Bahrain, on April 23, 2024. Juffair is the site of the 24-acre campus of Bahrain Elementary, Middle and High School, which closed April 16 because of extensive water damage from a major rainstorm. (Shayla Hamilton/ Navy)

By 1970, it expanded its admissions to English-speaking Bahraini students and those not sponsored by the Defense Department, leading to significant growth.

By 1972, the student body had grown to about 200, encompassing elementary and correspondence secondary students. The school relocated to its current 24-acre campus in 1972.

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