Camp Casey school to welcome its final students Monday
SEOUL, South Korea — Casey Elementary School will open Monday for its final year as the number of command-sponsored families in Area I shrinks due to the upcoming relocation of most U.S. forces in South Korea.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” assistant principal David Ballesteros-Burkett said of preparations for the new academic year. “It’s exciting, and we’re going to have a great year and have as many celebrations as we can, but it’s also the last year. Everything that we do, we’ll kind of look back because it’s the last year.”
When Casey Elementary opened in 2010, officials knew it would close within a matter of years because of the planned relocation of U.S. Forces Korea to regional hubs south of Seoul, particularly to Camp Humphreys. The Pyeongtaek base is undergoing a major expansion to eventually accommodate 36,000 troops, civilians and family members. Officials say the bulk of the move will happen by the end of 2017.
The $7.5 million Dongducheon school, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade, opened as part of USFK’s plan to increase the number of command-sponsored slots on the peninsula, and was built using South Korean funds contributed under a bilateral cost-sharing agreement.
Casey Elementary was initially scheduled to close in June 2015, but Department of Defense Education Activity spokesman Charly Hoff said projected enrollment for the upcoming school year was sufficient to justify another year.
While USFK will keep some forces in Area I after the relocation, the number of students at Casey is already declining.
Enrollment for the 2015-16 school year is projected at about 215 students, down more than half from a year earlier.
“Our military partners have already begun the process of winding down command sponsorships to Area I,” Hoff said. “The vast majority of command-sponsored families are scheduled to depart Area I by the summer of 2016.”
The few DODEA-eligible families who remain in Area I a year from now “will need to explore education options through the Non-DOD Schools Program,” Hoff said. The program provides education options for authorized command-sponsored students living overseas in locations where DODEA schools are not available.
Based on current information, military schools in Seoul are likely to remain open through the 2016-17 school year, Hoff said.