In September 1951, the United States took over the construction site of an airfield in Sembach, Germany from the French forces and named it Sembach Air Auxiliary Field. The American flag first flew on the base, by then known as Sembach Air Base, on July 8,1953.
Sembach Junior High School opened in the fall of 1978 with John Smith as principal, and Frank Calvano his assistant. The school had an enrollment of approximately 850 students in grades 4-9. It later became a 4-8 middle school when the 9th grade students were moved to Kaiserslautern High School. Students from Weierhof, Germany were also part of the student body. Blue and gold were the school colors, and the tiger its mascot.
Later the elementary and middle school were combined although occupying separate buildings. The combined elementary/middle school configuration lasted approximately four years, then were separated again.
There were many unique activities that enhanced the educational experiences for students at the school. They were afforded the opportunity to see and interact with many acclaimed individuals. The student body was addressed by a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, who encouraged them to continually strive for success and by Julie Fisher, an actress. Numerous authors addressed the student body. One was Michael Sampson who shared writing tips. The school was selected to participate in the pilot Read and Ride Program that was designed to increase students’ physical activity and reading time. Students spent three 20-minute sessions per week reading while pedaling on small stationary cycles. The school developed a business enterprise program in which business education, computer, mathematics, art, industrial arts, and home economics teachers worked with at risk students to form a company, produce products, and sell them. Participating students shared in the profits.
The student band was widely recognized by the student body, parents, and the community for its performances. The music teacher fostered mentorships between band students and members of the European Division of the Air Force Band which was stationed at Sembach. This was a partnership unique to Sembach Middle School. The band performed at community and school functions, including the annual Christmas performance.
Students of Sembach Middle School enjoyed the educational and cultural opportunities that study trips for those living abroad provided. The 4th grade class study trip was so successful that it was undertaken for many years. The class took a trip to the farmers market to shop for vegetable soup ingredients and bread. They then visited Haus Hamann’s restaurant in Weinbrunnerhof for a schnitzel and pommes frites lunch, plus ice cream. The following day they cooked vegetable soup and ate it with the bread purchased at the farmers’ market. The French class took trips to Verdun, France, the 7th grade to Trier, and Host Nation class traveled to Rothenburg ob derTauber, Speyer, and Heidelberg. The 5th grade class took a day long trip to Euro Space Center in Belgium. There were study trips to Senckenberg Nature Museum in Frankfurt, to the Fisher House at Landstuhl, and to Paris. Trips to annual Christkindlesmarkts (Christmas Markets) in Mannheim, Landstuhl, Frankfurt, Kaiserslautern, and Heidelberg were very popular.
Students at Sembach Middle School fondly remember the host nation partnership with the Burggymnasium Kaiserslautern, a co-educational secondary grammar school. They were able to observe the educational process and procedures that were vastly different than those they knew. They had an active exchange program with Hohenzollern Gymnasium. One class of 6th graders from both schools exchanged schools for one week. By the end of the year all 6th graders in each school were able to spend a week in each other’s school. Students in the upper grade classes were involved in after school social activities such as dance. The music teacher and Hohenzollern's also arranged joint musical programs, both choral and instrumental. One year they presented a joint Christmas concert in the Kaiserslautern Kursaal for the German community. There was a concerted effort to promote musical exchanges. Students played for the French school in Kaiserslautern and for several local German schools. They traveled to Baden Baden to play at the French school, and then to Baden Soellingen to play on the Canadian base.
The school’s enrollment dropped tremendously following closure of the flight line. Upon closure in June 2020 the enrollment of the school was less than 200 students.
Former principals of the school include John Smith, Leslie Burch, Dr. Shelley Rucker, Robert Richards, Georgia Williams-Fitzpatrick, Bonnie Bowen-Hannan, and Kent Bassett. Former assistant principals include Frank Calvano, Danny Robinson, Gene Meyer, Dominik Calabria, Jackie Israel, Rebecca Dunn, Robert Ermel, Isabel Engelmann, Walter Sealy, and David Miller.
Frau Ilona Eicher