Oohs, aahs and similar expressions of amazement filled the hallways and classrooms of the new Humphreys Middle/High School as students entered their new, state-of-the-art school for the first time Wednesday.
“I was like, in awe, jumping for joy and just so happy we were finally in our school,” said Katherine Chipps, a junior at Humphreys M/HS. Her sister Emily, also a junior at the school, added “When I first saw the auditorium, I was basically in tears. We’re both really involved in the music program and it’s going to be an amazing place. I can’t wait to have a concert there.”
To welcome the students into their new school, Humphreys M/HS Principal Shelly Kennedy and her team organized several spirited events including a flag-raising ceremony led by Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps students with music provided by the school band; a pep assembly with a special guest appearance by the Blackhawks’ new mascot; and special tours to help students locate all their new classrooms.
Addressing the students Kennedy said, “This is it … the school that was built just for you! I have every confidence you will be very excited with the beautiful facility.”
Several special guests were on hand to celebrate the opening of the new school including DoDEA Korea District Superintendent Dr. Irby Miller who said afterwards, “Humphreys Middle/High School is truly an exceptional learning facility in every regard. The new DoD schools at Camp Humphreys are also great additions to our two nationally recognized Blue Ribbon schools, the continued strong academic performance of our students, and the unique learning and cultural exchange opportunities available here in South Korea. I’m looking forward to seeing our students and educators make the most of this extraordinary campus for years to come.”
In addition to modern and well-appointed classrooms, science labs, and digital art and music rooms, the three-story school features a cutting-edge digital video production studio, performing arts auditorium, rooftop garden for planned culinary arts courses, and an indoor regulation marksmanship range for the JROTC program.
Emily Chipps said the new classrooms are important for the way students learn today, “I had physics today and it was amazing. We can have full labs in our physics classroom now and I really like hands-on learning. I have a hard time learning from a book but I get it quickly with hands-on biology, physics and chemistry labs.”
The campus also includes impressive athletic facilities such as a gymnasium, football/soccer stadium, five tennis courts, a baseball field, and a softball field.
Humphreys M/HS is environmentally friendly with several energy efficient, water conservation and indoor air quality features consistent with LEED BD+C specifications established by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Built for a capacity of 950, current student enrollment for Humphreys M/HS is 342 but will grow substantially as students transition over the next few years from the Seoul and Dongducheon areas where several DoD schools are slated to close as part of a strategic multi-year re-stationing of U.S. military personnel south of Seoul.
When construction delays prevented the planned opening of the school in August 2013, the Camp Humphreys community rallied together with the school staff to help make final preparations for the school year in interim facilities and again over the past several weeks to help with the transition into the new campus.
“I was kind of disappointed at the beginning of the school year when I found out we weren’t going to our new school,” said Katherine Chipps who transferred from nearby Osan American High School where she and her siblings attended school last year. She said the interim school facilities posed some challenges such as a cramped, makeshift band room and limited options for homecoming decorations and activities but that students, school staff and the community made the best of the situation adding, “It was totally worth the wait.”
As the historian for the student council, Katherine Chipps will not only document the historic transition to the new campus, she’s part of that history.
The new school was funded by the Republic of Korea and built by the Samsung C&T Corporation—renowned for having built three of the tallest skyscrapers in the world—with project management and oversight provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District and Multinational Division United States Forces Korea Base relocation office (MURO).
Humphreys Middle/High School is the second of five new DoD schools planned for Camp Humphreys with two additional elementary schools and a new middle school due to open over the next few years.
Once the new middle school construction is complete, students in grades 6-8 will move to their new campus. Humphreys Middle/High School will be reconfigured to grades 9-12 and renamed to Humphreys High School. School construction at Camp Humphreys is scheduled for completion by school year 2017-18 with an end-state enrollment capacity of 4,675 for all DoD schools located there.
Before entering the school for the first time, Kennedy reminded students that what really makes a new school special are the people inside and their shared experiences, “I would like to remind each and every one of you to get involved --- you will get out of school what you put into school. Participate, make positive contributions and reap the benefits of building school traditions and fond memories to last a lifetime.”
Emily Chipps, the junior class secretary and a member of student council, said she and her classmates are ready to do just that, “We were so happy to get in and to know we’re finally in our home. We’re actually here … we’re actually home. It’s so exciting!”
Parents, students and community members are welcome and encouraged to attend an open house for the new school on Monday, Jan. 13 from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m.
More photos of the new Humphreys Middle/High School are available from the USAG Humphreys Public Affairs Flickr site:
About DoDEA Pacific:
The first organized schools for the children of U.S. military personnel serving in the Pacific were established in 1946 during post-World War II reconstruction. Throughout the decades, DoD schools evolved to become a comprehensive and high-performing K-12 school system solely dedicated to educating the children of America’s heroes. Today, DoDEA Pacific’s 50 schools serve over 23,500 children of U.S. military and eligible DoD civilian personnel families stationed throughout the Pacific theater. The DoDEA Pacific teaching, administrative and school support team includes more than 3,400 full-time professionals. The schools are geographically organized into four districts: Guam, Japan, Okinawa and South Korea.