Students, teachers head back to school
August 27, 2014
WIESBADEN, Germany - As students and teachers were enjoying some well-deserved vacation time, construction planners and administrators were hard at work reshaping the face of Wiesbaden's schools.
"This is part of the phased plan to replace all of our school facilities in the next decade," said Peter Witmer, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden school liaison officer. "We've seen Clay Kaserne transform, and now we're transforming Hainerberg Housing.
"There are a lot of moving parts," Witmer said, explaining that the most obvious indication of that change is ongoing work on Wiesbaden High School which sees many students attending classes in temporary classrooms while work continues to remove old structures and to put new ones in place.
"The community and Department of Defense Dependents Schools have gone to great lengths to ensure that these are high quality facilities," he said, adding, "It will be a process of adjustment for some teachers and students. As (former Principal) Sharon O'Donnell used to say, 'construction will not stop instruction.'"
Richard Deaner, project manager and facilities engineer for DoDDS-Europe said demolition of the school's old buildings is slated to begin near the end of October.
"The new project is 95 percent designed, with a construction start scheduled for the spring of 2015," Deaner said, adding that work should take about two years and be completed around spring 2017.
The new school will meet Leed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental) Silver standards, Deaner said, including a variety of environmentally-friendly features such as sensor lights, lower-flow toilets and other aspects designed to reduce costs and save resources. Other new features to meet 21st century educational specifications include turning classrooms into studio space with common areas, creating a new "black box" theater offering more flexibility and various other updated designs.
"I think it'll be a great building," Deaner said, adding that designs for the new middle school and elementary school are at 35 percent completion with construction projected to start about six months after the high school is completed.
"The new middle school will be located across the street from the current elementary school," he said, explaining that students will stay in place in the current facility until the new middle school is completed. Once the new middle school is finished, those students will move and the old school will be demolished with construction of the new elementary school to occur in that space while students continue to attend school in the current facility.
Deaner said DoDDS and garrison officials are working closely together in a "construction enclave" to ensure the safety of students and teachers throughout the phased project.
This year saw three of Wiesbaden's schools welcome new principals. Greg Hatch took over Wiesbaden High School from Sharon O'Donnell, Debbie Parks replaced Penelope Miller-Smith at Hainerberg Elementary School and Barbara Mueller took the place of Parks at Aukamm Elementary School. Dr. Susan Hargis is back again to lead Wiesbaden Middle School.
"As the new principal at Wiesbaden High School, I look forward to meeting the students, parents, faculty and staff of Wiesbaden High School and facing the challenges of the construction project together," said Hatch.
"Parents should be aware that access to the campus has changed from the football field parking lot entrance to Gate 5 at the corner of Texas Strasse and Florida Strasse," Hatch added. "The streets around the high school campus will experience a very fluid situation as the project moves from one phase to the next over the next few months. … It will be an exciting, dynamic year as we all adjust to changing conditions before settling in for the long haul."
Assistant Principals Rick Renninger, Jeff Pond and Gwen Ziegler remain in place at Wiesbaden High School, Wiesbaden Middle School and Hainerberg Elementary School respectively.
"We anticipated, like every year, some minor changes with classroom teachers," said Witmer, explaining that a few retired and moved on to other positions, "but we expected fewer changes that last year."
Enrollments were also expected to be slightly lower than the year before with projections of about 240 at Aukamm Elementary School, 840 at Hainerberg Elementary School, 460 at the middle school and 620 at the high school, he said.
"This year the staff and I will work to create a small school feel in a big school setting," said Parks, about her new job leading Hainerberg Elementary School, adding that she is dedicated to strengthening the partnership and communication with parents and the community. "We'll send out a daily electronic bulletin to parents and any community members who desire this daily communication."
Hainerberg's new principal said the staff "is happy to be able to offer immersion Spanish and German in grades one, two and three. This program is so popular that there is a long waiting list.
"Exciting things will also be happening with our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program too," Parks said.
"Wiesbaden Middle School is ready for a new school year," said Hargis, explaining that a classroom has been converted into a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics classroom to be used by all students to enhance science and mathematics instruction. "We have two partners that are supporting our STEM initiatives -- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District, and Defense Science and Technology Center-Europe. Both have biologists, chemists and scientists with middle school students in the school, so they are vested in ensuring the success of Wiesbaden's pre-teens."
Wiesbaden Middle School's principal said the industry professionals are working closely with the school to provide a year-long program of events including everything from Math Night to Engineering Week, essay contests to hands-on experiments. "With its strong emphasis on STEM and academic rigor, students need to be prepared to learn," Hargis said, "because the teachers are ready to teach, and the military and community partners are ready to help and enhance the curriculum."
School bus safety
As the school year got underway, the school liaison officer reminded parents and students that riding a school bus is a privilege. "There is an expectation of appropriate behavior on the bus as there is in the school." Those who abuse that privilege risk losing their right to ride the bus.
"The safety of our riders is the highest priority, so discipline on the bus is paramount," Witmer said.
School lunch program
Parents are also reminded to take advantage of special savings on the school lunch program, he said, which can save?a family from $300-500 a year per child based on family size and income level. Applications, available on the garrison website, in the schools and at Parent Central Services, must be filled out and dropped off at Parent Central Services.
"Most of our E7s and below qualify for the program," Witmer said.
Aukamm and Hainerberg Elementary Schools hold open houses at 4 p.m. Sept. 3. Wiesbaden Middle School's open house is at 4 p.m. Sept. 9 and Wiesbaden High School holds an open house at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 11.
Students can look forward to another German-American year with engagement in the upcoming Leonardo Project. Besides helping plan Jam On 3 with the Martin-Niemoeller Schule (a performance of the best musical talent in Wiesbaden German and American schools), the garrison will host a "Composer Slam" where the best student musical compositions will be featured, Witmer said.
Show Me the College Money
Another community-school partnership this school year will see regular sessions of "Show Me the College Money" where parents and students can get tips and advice from the subject matter experts on planning for post-high school education. The Parent-to-Parent program and Child, Youth and School Services will team up to present a special session on financial aid, scholarships, the college admission process and other challenges, led by Anthony Williams, Sept. 15 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Wiesbaden Teen Center (Building 7884) in Hainerberg Housing.
Interested parents and students can call Witmer at civ (0611) 143-548-9305 for more information.