By Mr. Kenneth Fidler (IMCOM)May 21, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - After months of planning, calculating school enrollments for next year and surveying campuses, a comprehensive plan to expand Yongsan Garrison school facilities is underway.
The plan calls for constructing a six-classroom building and expanding the cafeteria, drop-off lanes and parking areas.
"We feel very good about the plan," said Tony Harris, Department of Defense Dependent Schools Korea chief of staff. "We've all had extensive input from the command, Department of Public Works and the schools. We've been out there walking it, making sure it will work and trying to figure out limitations."
School officials are expecting an additional 150 additional students at Yongsan beyond current capacity, Harris said. "The size of the facility expansion is based on the increased numbers."
The student increase comes as more families will move to Korea this summer as part of a plan by U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. B.B. Bell to increase command sponsorship tours.
Work is underway on a $603,000 classroom building to accommodate the expected increase in enrollments. The project began in April and should be finished by the end of July.
Middle school students, mostly eighth-graders, will use the new classrooms, which has given the middle school the flexibility to share another building with the elementary school.
With middle schools students moving into the new classrooms, it allowed administrators to share a middle school building with the elementary school. "The top floor of S3559 will include five fifth-grade classrooms, and the bottom floor will be for sixth grade," said Donna Kacmarski, Seoul American Elementary School principal.
Student-to-teacher ratios will not change with the expansion, Harris said.
"Our teacher manpower is based on a certain number of students per teacher," he explained. "With these expanded classrooms and hiring new teachers, we are still able to keep the numbers at the right ratios, so there's no impact on academics."
More students means more seats needed at lunchtime. A local contractor will begin work June 16 to increase the size of the cafeteria at the middle school by 144 seats. The current capacity is 350. The 1,840 square feet structure will cost about $131,000.
This is a welcome addition that will bring lunch periods back to a more typical schedule. Previously, the middle school had a nutrition break at 11 a.m. to bridge a long gap to lunchtime, which didn't start until 12:40 p.m.
"Kids were having lunch then going home just a short while later," said Samia Mounts, assistant principal at Seoul American Middle School. "Now, we can have two lunch periods for the middle school starting at 11:15 after the elementary school has finished."
The six windows in the current cafeteria will become doorways to the addition, which will feature the same red brick facade as the current building, said Bryan Dorrough, chief, Department of Public Works engineering and inspection branch.
The third major project will expand drop-off lanes and add 51 parking spaces ner the Hammond Field picnic area.
The elementary school's current one-lane drop-off point will grow to two lanes, and contractors will build another drop-off area on the south side of the elementary school along X Corps Drive.
The current drop-off area in front of the school is too small and congested. "The way it is now, if you stop, then you block everyone behind you," said Young (Paul) Lee, DPW engineering division chief. "We're going to make it two lanes so you can go around."
Engineers designed the second lane to be about 30 meters longer than the first to avoid congestion and allow parents to exit faster.
The planned drop-off lane on X Corps Drive will handle about eight vehicles at a time, Young said. "We will move the sidewalk back and create a one-way drop off lane to go with the flow of traffic," he said.
With this, an additional 51 parking spaces will be added to the parking lot across from Stoves Avenue south of the elementary school.
"This is going to be the best one," Dorrough said. "It doesn't cost much and it will have a big impact."
The current lot, which has space for about 35 cars, will be expanded toward the perimeter fence behind the National Museum of Korea.
Designers added an exit lane along the back fence to allow traffic to flow out toward Gate 17 to avoid congestion along the main road.
"There has been so much collaboration between the schools and the Yongsan command," Kacmarski said. "Everybody knows we have limitations, but we're working together and that's what's important."