By Jim Cunningham and Master Sgt. Michael PintagroMarch 30, 2010
CASEY GARRISON South Korea - The busing of high school students from Casey Garrison to Yongsan Garrison and back during school days was an important topic during the annual Family Readiness Group Round-up held March 24 in Casey's Warrior's Club. Students needing only one year to finish before moving on to classes in Yongsan's junior high school and senior high school want to be 'grandfathered in' so they may finish in the school they are currently attending paid by the Department of Defense Education Activity. All other students within the Red Cloud Garrison foot print would attend school in the new DODEA School being constructed on Casey.
After completing their course work, the grandfathered students would be bused with other junior high school and senior high school students to Yongsan schools for a bus ride lasting 1 hour from Red Cloud and 1 hour and 45 minutes each way from Casey. If they wish to remain in local private schools, the parents would pay the tuition. Parents concerned about their children spending more than 3 hours on a bus every school day brought the question up to Dr. Irby Miller, superintendent of the Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Seoul during the meeting.
"There is no grandfather clause at the present moment," Miller said. "At the present moment when the new school opens, all of the students who are in Area I; K-8 school students will be mandated to attend the new Casey school. Our 9th and 12th graders will be required to be bused from this area all the way down to Yongsan. The only exception will be those students who are in grades 6, 8, and 12. They will be allowed, for the coming school year, to continue to attend the International School for one year. After one year, they will be required to follow into the normal flow and be bused to Yongsan. This is the enrollment policy at the present time."
Miller went on to explain this information is coming from senior management offices in Washington, D.C.
Parents concerned about the length of the bus rides asked Miller if DODDS had guide lines for the length of bus commutes for DODEA schools.
"There are guide lines," Miller said. "The guide line stipulates no commute should be longer than 59 minutes. The situation in USAG-RC and USAG-Casey forces us to go beyond that. I agree it is a long commute."
When asked if there were to be any exceptions for attending the local International school, Miller said the only exception would be parents enrolling their children in the International school at their own expense.
"Long commutes are not new to DODEA," Miller said. "Students commute every day in Europe for 2 hours one way in some instances. This is just the situation in Warrior Country. We are replicating the same thing because we have no alternative."
Miller explained there is an option to forward a letter to DODEA management explaining the situation and ask for exceptions. He said he would look at the situation and submit his recommendations, but he has to stand by DODEA decisions as they are at the present time. He said in addition to writing to the leadership at DODEA, parents could write for an extra year for students in grades 6, 8 and 12 to attend the International school.
"Students have been commuting for a number of years," Miller said. "They become very creative in terms of traveling from home to school and back by doing their home assignment while riding the bus."
Col. Larry A. Jackson, the USAG-RC commander, and Col. Joseph Moore, the USAG-Humphreys commander, delivered presentations on key initiatives and upcoming events in their respective regions. The colonels covered major facility construction and developmental projects within their respective communities, emphasizing Family, child care and quality of life issues.
Jackson predicted prodigious progress on planned projects, particularly within the "Dongducheon cluster."
"There's a lot going on in Warrior Country," he said. "We talk about things changing and tour normalization, but until people start seeing construction going on and walls going up, they don't believe anything is happening. Now they'll be able to see a lot's happening."
Moore discussed the rapidly developing military Family footprint at Humphreys and nearby Pyeongtaek, noting ongoing and upcoming projects designed to improve infrastructure and accommodate a growing number of Warrior Families.
Priscilla Stolpe delivered a spirited presentation on New Parent Support Group activities and services, including classes, screenings, playgroups and home visits. A follow-up presentation described "Operation Baby Bundles," a project which aims to provide baby care packages to needy 2nd Infantry Division junior enlisted Soldier Families.
Chaplain (Maj.) Insoon Hoagland, 2ID's first Family life chaplain, described the new agency's mission, resources and programs. She also outlined some of the challenges confronting Warrior Families and how her team can help.
"My main focus is to ensure we provide counseling and treatment for Soldiers and Families," Hoagland said before her presentation. "This will help the leaders know what's available so they can encourage Soldiers throughout their chain of command, and also the Family members to take advantage of our counseling services."
Lt. Col. Alan Gatlin, 2ID surgeon, briefed the assembled leaders on "comprehensive Soldier fitness," emphasizing the master resiliency program. He also reminded listeners to complete a mandatory online "global assessment tool" designed to measure "comprehensive" fitness.
We had another great successful FRG Roundup, Lt. Col. David Hater, the 2ID personnel officer and a key event organizer, said after the round-up.