Oslo American School (ES/JHS) History

Opened: 1948
Closed: 1994

Oslo American School, grades kindergarten through ten, was located in the small town of Bekkestua, approximately fifteen kilometers from Oslo, Norway. The original school was an elementary school and was located in a German WWII Disciplinary Barracks that had a pillbox emplacement across the street. The new school which was built in the 1960-61 school year was housed in a three wing, one story brick and wood building with grades kindergarten through six housed in one wing, grades seven through ten in the second wing, and the administrative offices, gymnasium and library occupying the third wing. The school was opened in 1948 and closed in 1994. The school mascot was the Eagles and the school colors were green and gold.

Visitors to the school included President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Lady Bird in 1963.

The first school yearbook, OASis, was published in 1970. The yearbook showed that winter sports such as downhill skiing, speed skating, slalom ski racing and ice skating dominated athletics. The first schoolwide newspaper was for the 1971-72 school year. That year there were eighty-six students in the upper grades and ten elementary classes including combination classes at several grades and two first grades. For the 1971-72 school year, the upper grades had twelve tenth graders, twenty-nine ninth graders, twenty eighth graders and two classes of seventh graders. Soccer, basketball and volleyball were part of the athletic program. Both of these years the principal was Mr. Smith and there were about twenty faculty members.

Mr. Vrebalovich became principal for the 1973-74 school year and Mr. Bunch was the assistant principal. The school had its first yearly skating carnival and hockey was included in the sports program. By 1974-75 the faculty increased to twenty-five. There were now nineteen tenth graders, thirty-two ninth graders, thirty-six eighth graders and thirty-one seventh graders. The elementary grades continued to have several combination classes. The school had separate student councils for the elementary and junior high schools. Students participated in a swimming program that was held at the local pool across from the school. Girls’ and boys’ basketball teams were added to athletics. The yearbook also featured cheerleaders for the first time.

The 1979 yearbook featured the skating and ski carnivals and the “Spiterstulen”. The school administrators were Mr. Arne Watland and Mr. Larry Howard. The next year, Ms. Lucia Tyler became the assistant principal and the school hosted fifteen student teachers. In 1980 the yearbook highlighted the visit to the school by The American Ambassador to Norway and Mrs. Rand. For the 1980-81 school year, the new principal was David Gangsei.

In 1981-82 there were approximately 210 pupils enrolled in the school with seventy percent in the elementary grades. The elementary grades were self-contained with specialists for music, physical education and host nation. Grades seven through ten were departmentalized with six classes per day. The staff consisted of sixteen classroom teachers, a librarian, part-time music teacher, a host nation teacher, a half-time reading specialist, a half-time compensatory education teacher, a principal, an assistant principal/guidance counselor, two secretaries, a library aide, and a supply clerk. Mr. Ryall became the vice principal for school year 1982-83. This was also the year that the Young Ambassadors program was begun.

Mr. Hal Haggard became the principal for the 1983-84 school year. The school continued to have a very diverse student body with students from Pakistan, Canada, Denmark, Turkey, Spain, Australia, Japan, Ireland and China in addition to the American dependents. Astronauts, Sally Ride and Rich Hauch, from the Space Shuttle Challenger visited the school.

The next two school years, Ms. Jennifer Beckwith was the principal. Mr. Alexander Slaten was the vice principal her second year. For the 1989-90 school year there were approximately 250 students in grades K-9. Kindergarten through sixth grade had approximately 170 students with sixty-nine students in grades seven through nine. Elementary classrooms were self-contained with high school teachers of music, physical education and host nation providing specialist support. The junior high classes were departmentalized with six classes per day. The staff consisted of sixteen classroom teachers, a half-time reading improvement specialist, half-time speech therapist, half-time teacher for learning impaired, principal, assistant principal, a half-time counselor, secretary, library clerk, supply clerk and tuition clerk.

The principal for the 88-89 until the closing of the school in June 1994 was Mr. James O’Neil. His assistants included Mr. Slaten and Mr. Reid Braslow. During these years Oslo partnered with a local Norwegian school and a British school for school activities such as dances. The school also played the International School of Stockholm in volleyball and basketball. The 1989-90 school year was also the first time, students competed in sports with the DoDDS school in Stavanger, Norway. Students vied in badminton, table tennis, darts, basketball, volleyball, soccer and relays.

There were only seventeen faculty members for the 1991-92 school year and approximately 140 students. By the 1993/94 school year, the school had grades one through nine with approximately 170 students.

The school had several programs that were unique. The Young Ambassador Program was established to provide a bridge of understanding between American and Norwegian teenagers. Several times a year, the Oslo American School tenth grade Young Ambassadors acted as hosts and hostesses to various groups from Norwegian schools. A tour was conducted of the American Ambassador’s Residence, giving special attention to the ambassador’s collection of art. Students then presented a program which told about their lives in America. American Ambassador Mark Evans Austad conceived the idea of the Young Ambassador Program.

Another unique program was the weeklong trip aboard the SS Svanen. The SS Svanen was the only preserved sailing ship from Norway’s Golden Age of international seafaring. It survived World War I and had a long history as a freighter. After being in a dilapidated state, it was saved and brought back to Norway as a vessel preservation project and again rigged as a three-masted fore-and-aft schooner to serve as a training ship. Since 1973, ‘Svanen’ called Bygdoynes, Oslo, Norwegian Maritime Museum as its home port. Student, Kari Jensen Gross, described the activity as moving on the ship for a week, having the time of our lives cruising around and learning to sail. The teachers who sponsored the activity were Mr. Larner and Hal Frank.

Another activity was Spiterstulen, which was a weeklong ski trip that the teens got to go on. The trip was mainly cross-country skiing and some downhill as well. Students stayed in bunks at lodge. One student reported that lutefisk was part of the buffet but no one ate much of it. The same student remembered the bus ride up the mountain as harrowing.

Students also reported attending “leirskole” which was a one-week camp attended by schoolchildren as an entire class. The activity was also referred to as “fjellskole”, mountain school. Students learned orienteering, how to build shelters, first aid as well as hiking and riding horses. The purpose of the camp was to get students away from the traditional classroom environment. During the one-week camp, the focus was less on academics and more on social relationship building. Although most schools are neighborhood oriented and students grow up attending school with your neighboring kids, this camp experience helped foster relationships that students would carry into adulthood while also being fun. Oslo students usually got one class camp trip in upper elementary school, fifth or sixth grade, and one in junior high.

Share This: