Bells ring for Humphreys Central Elementary School
CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – Humphreys Central Elementary School (HCES) opened its doors for the start of the new school year Aug. 27. New and returning students were greeted by faculty, staff and music performed by the Eighth Army Band. Soldiers and Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army (KATUSA) lined the entrance way with greeting signs and passed out pencils to incoming students.
“The school is a lot bigger here and this is the first time the Army Band has greeted us on the first day of school,” said Sgt. Courtney Davis, a public affairs specialist from Tallahassee, Florida, assigned to the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
Davis, previously stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, arrived in Korea mid-August, accompanied by her husband, Justin, and three children, Julius, Genesis and Trinity.
“The transition has been stress-free and the administrators for DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) PAC-West have made the registration smooth as butter,” said Davis.
Over the course of several years, United States Forces Korea personnel, to include the civilian workforce have begun a process known as ‘Transformation and Restationing’, relocating from the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area to Camp Humphreys. This historic event of relocating Soldiers, accompanied family and Korean National civilian personnel is unprecedented and marks a significant change for forces in Korea.
This is the first year that Camp Humphreys’ schools will be affected by the transition, as service members and their families from around the peninsula have relocated to Camp Humphreys. More students than ever will fill the classrooms this school year.
“The transformation and movement of troops and families from USAG (U.S. Army Garrison) Yongsan affected the school year by emulating our enrollment from previous years prior to the establishment of two elementary schools at USAG Humphreys,” said Tiffany M. Bryant, principal of HCES and Tampa, Florida native.
Bryant, has been principal of HCES for two years and the 2018-2019 school year will be her third year as instructional leader for the area.
“In our previous year, our student enrollment was 350,” said Bryant. “To date, we have a total of 612 students enrolled, including our ‘Sure Start’ population,” she said.
The school is supporting the changes brought on by the transformation by being prepared, said Bryant. The DoDEA utilizes staffing standards for student to teacher ratios, with class sizes reflecting that of previous years and creating an influx of staffing. So far, 53 new employees have been added to the HCES campus.
“Usually, you just go to school,” said Ashlie Webster, a third-grade teacher at HCES from Laramie, Wyoming. “There were so many people there to support the kids and there was a band so it was fun.”
Webster, who has been teaching for six years, says this is her first year with DoDEA.
“I previously worked in schools where there were no books, no workbooks,” said Webster. “I would create my own worksheets for the class or if there was one workbook, I would make copies for the students and sometimes they would have to share,” she added.
“Here, DoDEA is well-funded and there are consumable workbooks and resources for the students,” said Webster.
Webster’s previous work experience provides insight to the different culture that comes from working with DoDEA.
“Everyone has been supportive and it’s interesting to see how the kids are so open and accepting,” said Webster. “I’m interested to see how PCS (permanent change of station) season changes the classroom as we receive new kids throughout the year,” she added.
“With the transformation comes growth, and the faculty and staff at HCES continue to provide excellent customer service,” said Bryant.
“We are a dedicated team of professionals who keep the educational gains and safety of our students at the forefront of everything we do,” said Bryant. “This is witnessed in our scheduling, curriculum, collaboration, planning and more,” she said.
For Davis and her family, the transition from Fort Riley to Camp Humphreys has been positive. She said that during orientation, it was explained that much of the creative curriculum at her children’s previous school would apply here.
“My seven-year-old, Trinity, fell asleep when she came home, so they’re doing something right,” said Davis. “They (her children) all seem happy and willing to share their experience without hesitation, so I know this will be a good move.”