Classes at Zama’s middle, high schools to begin as scheduled following renovations, new furniture de
Col. Christopher Tomlinson, center, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, gives Lois J. Rapp, right, the Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific Director for Student Excellence, a tour of the newly renovated auditorium Aug. 13 at Zama Middle High School on Camp Zama, Japan. (U.S. Army photo by Amber Kurka) (Photo Credit: Amber Kurka) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Aug. 24, 2021) – School and military leadership worked together to prevent a possible delay to the start of the 2021-2022 school year at Zama Middle High School here, the school’s principal said.

Classes at ZMHS will begin Aug. 25 as scheduled, thanks to support from U.S. Army Garrison Japan and the Japan Engineer District to streamline necessary renovations at the school and set up new desks, furniture and other equipment, Principal Henry LeFebre said.

“The students have nothing to worry about,” LeFebre said. “We will open on time as expected.”

The renovations had been an ongoing project for a few years but had not affected school operations, since other rooms had been used to hold classes for students on the combined campus. However, a lack of chairs and desks in those classrooms would have of course delayed the start of the school year.

The school needed help delivering, offloading, unpacking, organizing and assembling the hundreds of pieces of furniture so that classes could start on time, LeFebre said.

Help from USAG Japan Commander Col. Christopher Tomlinson, USAG Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Turner, JED, and other stakeholders and community partners made the time-sensitive transition possible and allowed the projects to be completed in time.

“We were able to mitigate our issues by working with our USAG Japan partners to ensure the delivery of our furniture seamlessly and [in a] timely [manner],” LeFebre said.

Tomlinson explained that through the collaborative effort, the different organizations were able to finish the renovations and furniture assembly, while also working to clean debris and other items in order to prepare for the arrival of teachers and students on the first day of school.

“Teamwork turned a challenge into a good-news story,” Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson said the students can expect “ready for instruction” classrooms with brand new, state-of-the-art furnishings.

Nicole M. Martinez, the school liaison officer, said she and the school team worked together with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation to have a contingency plan in case the furniture did not arrive in time for the start of school.

The partnership between the school and USAG Japan team is “truly remarkable” and it “displays the pride in our community and [our] willingness to help one another,” Martinez said.

“It is amazing how these community partnerships truly shine through during situations like this,” Martinez said.

LeFebre also noted another significant change for some students this year: the transition of sixth grade from elementary to middle school. Sixth-grade students were previously part of Arnn Elementary School on Sagamihara Family Housing Area. Having them join ZMHS this year has several benefits to both the school and the students, LeFebre said.

The change will bring ZMHS on par with other school systems in the United States that follow the same system, meaning students here will be used to it when they return, LeFebre said.

The change also allows sixth-grade teachers to familiarize themselves with the middle school setting they are meant to be a part of, since they typically operate much like high schools in regard to scheduling and course options, LeFebre added.

“The new [middle school] students can expect to be challenged by a new environment, a new schedule, and new faces,” LeFebre said. “The advantages of their new setting will be getting acquainted with middle school under the supervision of our small school."

“We care for our students as if they were our own children,” LeFebre added. “They are in good hands.”

The first class of sixth-grade students joining the middle school this year will experience new opportunities to maximize their academic growth, as the district-wide initiative will align with the Department of Defense Education Activity’s “blueprint for a continuous improvement plan,” Martinez said.

It will be a new experience for the students, who will have a different scheduling system than the one they were used to as elementary students, which could take a little time to get used to, Martinez said. However, the advantages include the opportunity to “grow academically in a new environment and a newly renovated building,” she said.

“ZMHS has a great team with great leadership, and our team is very excited for this year and we want to help in any way we can to make this a fun and safe year for everyone,” Martinez said. “We are looking forward to a wonderful school year.”