USAG Rheinland-Pfalz breaks ground for tomorrow Baumholder’s innovative elementary school project begins

Story and photos by Linda Lambiotte
U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Public Affairs
On May 29, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at Wetzel Kaserne in Baumholder, Germany, to mark the beginning of construction for the new Baumholder Elementary School.

U.S. Army Garrison Rhein-land-Pfalz, along with the Department of Defense Education Activity Europe, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District, and local government officials came together to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Baumholder Elementary School on Wetzel Kaserne, May 29.

The event featured speeches from various leaders and marks the beginning of construction on the new school, scheduled for completion in summer 2027.

“This groundbreaking is another victory for the Baumholder Community,” said Col. Reid Furman, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz commander, “another victory for all those who fought to maintain and promote this amazing military community.”

Furman noted that today’s event is the third groundbreaking for the Baumholder community, following the recent ones for the new Army Lodge and new housing.

“This is another achievement for those who live here and have witnessed Baumholder’s transition,” he said. “We are committed to continuing our investment into this community.”

Furman said that today’s groundbreaking represents more than just a construction project; it symbolizes the lasting partnership between the United States and Germany and a joint commitment to creating brighter futures for future generations.

Col. Reid Furman, the commander of USAG Rheinland-Pfalz, delivers remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Baumholder Elementary School at Wetzel Kaserne in Baumholder, Germany, on May 29. “This groundbreaking is another victory for the Baumholder Community,” he said, “another victory for all those who fought to maintain and promote this amazing military community.”

“This school, once completed, will be a beacon of learning, innovation, and community spirit,” he said. “It will provide a nurturing environment where young minds can flourish, equipped with the knowledge and skills to lead us into tomorrow.”

Furman added that while today’s event represents a leap forward in educational infrastructure it is also a symbolic step in the legacy of Smith Elementary School, which has served generations of families, including his own, as his wife, Julia, attended Smith Elementary school as a first grader in 1986, when stationed in Baumholder with her family.

Arleigh Smith, a fifth grader at Smith Elementary School and Anchored 4 Life student leader, said that Smith Elementary has helped her grow as a leader, as a student, and as a person.

“Smith Elementary is special,” she said. “Here, every decision I make, I am supported. This school helped me learn more about myself and the people around me, giving me the chance to be the leader I am today.”

Dr. Michelle Howard-Brahaney, DODEA-Europe director of Student Excellence, said that the new school will help students achieve excellence in education.

“Alongside our partners, we will continue to set conditions for student success, bringing a bright future to generations yet to come,” she said. “In this 21st-century school, technology will connect hand in hand with tradition. Here, students will not merely learn; they will thrive.”

The 21st-century school, costing $64.7 million and spanning 135,200 square feet, is designed to accommodate 700 students from preschool through fifth grade. It emphasizes flexible spaces and a global-classroom concept, aligning with DODEA’s goal of integrating technology to enhance teaching and learning.

The future Baumholder Elementary School will not only support the 21st-century teaching and learning model but also incorporate sustainability and energy-saving concepts. These features include the extensive use of natural light and energy-efficient lighting systems, window glazing for natural light and outdoor views, efficient interior and exterior lighting systems, pumps, and fans, resulting in annual energy cost savings compared to a standard design, and low-flow plumbing estimated to save thousands of gallons of water per year.

Once completed, Baumholder Elementary School will replace Smith Elementary School, which was established in 1952 and named after WWII Captain Harold D. Smith. Smith ES currently serves students of military and Civilian personnel from the local U.S. military communities of Baumholder and Ramstein Air Base, as well as students from in the bus zoning villages of Baumholder schools.