Guantanamo Bay’s Kindergarten

Around this time of year, American schoolchildren’s summers invariably end as school begins anew.   This is as true for American children in New York as it is Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The W.T. Sampson School, an American K-12 located at the military base there, began its school year on Monday.

The Sampson School is run by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) under the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) subdivision, which educates over 80,000 American schoolchildren living on military institutions in 12 foreign countries, as well as in seven U.S. states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.  There are nearly 200 DoDEA schools which, collectively, employ nearly 9,000 educators.

The school — the oldest DoDDOS institution — opened its doors in 1931 to serve five students, housed in a single classroom with one educator acting as teacher and administrator.  Ten years later, the student population grew to the point where a second building, housing only the high school, was warranted.  But that was short-lived, as, after Pearl Harbor, the school suspended operations until October of 1945.  It also evacuated during the Cuban Missile Crisis, closing from October to December of 1962.

But other than that, it seems to be a typical, albeit small, school, right down to the lunch menu (.pdf — if you don’t want to click, today’s menu is pepperoni pizza, carrot sticks, buttered corn, seedless grapes, cookies and milk) and the required school supplies(although it is a bit odd that kindergartners need to bring baby wipes).  The school’s facilities include typically seen things such as a cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasium, and playgrounds.

Just your everyday life for the only DoDDS school in a communist nation.

Bonus fact: Army uniforms, as one would expect, have emblazoned upon them an American flag patch.  But interestingly, the flag on the right sleeve is backwards (here’s a picture).  Why?  Buried inside Army Regulation 670-1 is the explanation: “When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”

Related: Inside the Wire: Guantanamo, a National Geographic DVD.

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