By Donna Walker, USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg Public AffairsApril 7, 2011
MANNHEIM, Germany -Not since 1956 have students from Mannheim taken the bus to attend school at Heidelberg. Come August, however, nearly 200 students will travel the 20 kilometers to Heidelberg High School once again when Mannheim High School closes its doors after 55 years.
However, it won't be only students making the transition. Seven Mannheim teachers will take their places among the faculty in Heidelberg.
"It's a big move for all of us," said freshman student Chance Bullard. "This is where (we've) felt comfortable. Some are okay with it and some are disappointed because they have to leave Mannheim."
When news of the closure came last summer, all jobs at Mannheim High School and some middle school positions went away, according to HHS Principal K.J. Brewer. "They (the teachers) were eligible to request reassignment in the district or worldwide."
Seven of the teachers were placed in vacant positions at Heidelberg.
They look forward to the change but, like their students, have mixed feelings.
Five-year teacher Christopher Zamor said students "overall, show guarded optimism on the whole affair," he said.
"I just got here in the middle of eighth grade," Mannheim freshman Chance Bullard said. "I expected to stay here and then I found out we have to go to Heidelberg High School. It is what it is. It's the Army."
Zamor whose wife Leah, also a Mannheim teacher, observed a marked maturity among students.
"For some, there is a certain degree of 'learning to like' Heidelberg that will need to occur. Many students seem to recognize that in time that feeling will fade, new friendships will be made and old friendships will be continued."
Administrators and teachers are helping students negotiate the emotions of the upcoming events. "Almost every week, counselors come in our classes and talking and helping as much as they can - with the move, with our grades, everything. Our teachers and counselors are behind us 100 percent," Bullard said.
Bullard will continue with Junior ROTC and sports at HHS and he has already met some of the football, rifle team and drill team coaches and players.
He knows Heidelberg somewhat and recently visited the high school with his younger brother and sister, twins who will be freshmen, to select courses for next year.
"We're okay with going over there (to Heidelberg) because we're behind our parents 100 percent. We know that being in the Army means you have to move a lot," Bullard said. "The ones that are most disappointed are those who just got here. They already made a big move."
Transitions are not uncommon experiences for these students who face multiple moves
throughout their school years along with the absences of parents when they deploy.
Because of this familiarity with change, said Science teacher Leah Zamor, Mannheim students exhibit "a lot of personality, tenacity and most important, perseverance, overcoming obstacles such as multiple deployments of family members."
Her colleague, English and German teacher Debby Osborne, believes the reassigned teachers can help later, too.
"I'm glad to be accompanying our students from Mannheim and hope it will help to provide stability and encouragement," Osborne said.
Filling teaching positions happens every school year and HHS principal Brewer said he's pleased the Mannheim teachers are qualified and experienced.
He believes Mannheim students will be welcomed as will all new students.
"Each year, we have about a 30 percent turnover in our school population.
So along with the students coming from Mannheim, we will have students from many bases in America and probably transfers from other bases in Europe." Brewer said. "We will do our best to welcome news students with great programs and activities that support the high school experience."