GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- U.S. and German officials gathered here Nov. 7 to clink glasses in a major milestone toward completion of the new Grafenwoehr Elementary School.

Community leaders, engineers, builders and school staff rendezvoused at the grounds of the ongoing construction site for a Richtfest -- a German tradition known as a Topping Out ceremony.

The Richtfest is held at construction sites where the last beam is tightened along a construction site. A tree or timber crown is often placed along the top beam. The practice is common throughout parts of Germany and across Europe. A carpenter in traditional garb delivers remarks, gives toasts and then breaks his beer mug in a fashion similar to the christening of a ship.

Department of Defense Education Activity -- the agency overseeing U.S. military schools overseas -- is funding the $38 million project. Officials broke ground last year, Nov. 20, 2018.

Construction is scheduled to be complete February 2021. It will go into use for the 2021-2022 school year beginning August 2021, said Bavaria Superintendent Melissa Hayes.

The present school building was built here in 1946 with two minor additions in 1960 and 1998. It doesn't meet DoDEA's education facilities specifications or the current federal energy and sustainability mandates.

The current school is located on Tower Barracks in Grafenwoehr. The new site is also on Tower Barracks.

The new design transforms the traditional school setting to a global classroom concept in a multistory facility, which includes learning studios, learning hubs, flex laboratories, music rooms and shared common spaces.

Because of this adaptability, traditional classrooms are no longer part of the design, said project manager John Templeton, Europe District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District.

The new school will boast systems to provide real-world relevance and examples to reinforce the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum.

Additionally, sustainability and energy-saving concepts are designed in these buildings to save taxpayer dollars and help preserve environmental resources for future generations.

The features include: low-flow plumbing to reduce water use by more than 38% as compared to a standard design; an estimated 47% energy savings, which result in an anticipated savings of more than $40,000 annually for the life of the project; and more than 93% of occupied space will have direct views to the outdoors.

These design standards will have an anticipated lifespan of nearly 50 years, according to DoDEA.