Students, Faculty and Army Leaders Celebrate New DoDEA School in Grafenwoehr

More than a half a dozen Grafenwoehr Elementary students join distinguished guests and leaders from across the military community and Department of Defense Education Activity to cut the ribbon for the new Grafenwoehr Elementary School in Grafenwoehr, Germany Sept. 12, 2023. Officials from the Department of Defense Education Activity, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, 7th Army Training Command and more participated in the ceremony for the new school. (U.S. Army photo by Richard Puckett)
More than a half a dozen Grafenwoehr Elementary students join distinguished guests and leaders from across the military community and Department of Defense Education Activity to cut the ribbon for the new Grafenwoehr Elementary School in Grafenwoehr, Germany Sept. 12, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Richard Puckett)

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Sept 12. to celebrate the opening of the new Grafenwoehr Elementary School.

With the aid of half a dozen Grafenwoehr Elementary students, distinguished guests, and leaders across the military and Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), the ribbon was cut, signifying the newest 21st-century school in Europe.

Dr. Michelle Howard-Brahaney, Director of Student Excellence for DoDEA Europe, stated it was designed to promote critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship, and culture.

The new facility in Grafenwoehr will serve up to 400 preschool through fifth-grade students each school year. The Army Corps of Engineers and German contractors started building the school in 2018 and completed it with a soft opening in April 2023. Grafenwoehr Elementary School cost approximately $37.5 million to build. The school was built with ample space, transforming the traditional school into a global classroom concept in a two-story building.

Col. Daniel Kent, commander of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District presents the key to the school to the current principal Michael Defrancesco during the ribbon-cutting for the new Grafenwoehr Elementary School in Grafenwoehr, Germany Sept. 12, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Richard Puckett)
Col. Daniel Kent, commander of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District presents the key to the school to the current principal Michael Defrancesco during the ribbon-cutting for the new Grafenwoehr Elementary School in Grafenwoehr, Germany Sept. 12, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Richard Puckett)

The current students at the school will put together a time capsule that future generation of military connected children will open. “The future is firmly rooted in today. Today is significant for so many reasons with this new beautiful facility we have taken an important step in securing the future of the school and ensuring the DoDEA vision of providing excellent education for every student, every day, everywhere”, stated Howard-Brahaney.

The ceremony included remarks from the Director of Student Excellence for DoDEA Europe, Dr. Michelle Howard-Brahaney, current Principal of Grafenwoehr Elementary School, Michael Defrancesco, Brig. Gen Steven Carpenter, commander of the 7th Army Training Command, Col Daniel Kent, commander of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District, the mayor of Grafenwoehr, and a 5th-grade student.

“This may be one of the nicest schools you attend,” said Kent to the audience of 5th-grade students. He encouraged students to look for signs of how the school was built, stating the building itself is a teaching tool with cool secrets.

Grafenwoehr Elementary School students sit in front of the school during its ribbon-cutting ceremony in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Sept. 12, 2023. Officials from the Department of Defense Education Activity, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, 7th Army Training Command and more participated in the ceremony for the new school. (U.S. Army photo by Richard Puckett)
Grafenwoehr Elementary School students sit in front of the school during its ribbon-cutting ceremony in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Sept. 12, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Richard Puckett)

The school maintains the DoDEA’s continuing theme of 21st-century schools for 21st-century learning. 21st-century facilities allow educators to create flexible and adaptable spaces to facilitate multiple learning modes. Additionally, the school includes sustainability-related teaching tools, including a wind turbine, photovoltaic system, and energy dashboard depicting real-time energy consumption and generation data at the school that teachers can incorporate into lesson plans.

Some of the school’s unique features include an interactive nature path, student-maintained gardens, amphitheater-style steps for music events and outdoor learning, and two playgrounds.

Carpenter closed with an old proverb, “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere,” expanding on it with, “If you dream more, you will learn more, then you will do more, and you will become more and, in that process, you will become more.”