BERLIN, Germany — The children of German auto workers are coming here — and they’ll need to learn more German.
More than two years before Volkswagen’s new Chattanooga plant starts producing cars, some top VW managers and specialists are moving to Tennessee.
Andreas Meurer, Volkswagen’s deputy head of communications, said about 80 Germans, some with their families, are expected to make their home here.
Frank Fischer, the new VW plant manager who’s been head of a company factory in Brunswick, Germany, said some people will stay for three months and others for two to three years or more.
“Some are specialists we need,” he said, adding that their children will require particular attention when it comes to continuing their schooling.
For example, it’s important the children stay competent in their native German language so they’ll still be proficient when they return, he said.
Work is scheduled to begin in November on the 2,000-employee, $1 billion manufacturing plant at Enterprise South industrial park. After production begins in early 2011, about 150,000 vehicles a year are expected to roll off the line.
VW spokeswoman Jill Bratina said company officials have met with Hamilton County Schools personnel and visited Girls Preparatory School, Bright School, Baylor, McCallie, Ooltewah High and Westview Elementary.
“These are informational visits in preparation for German students who will be living in Chattanooga,” she said.
According to an accord between VW, the state and Hamilton County, the county has agreed, acting through the school system, to provide for a German curriculum.
Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jim Scales said the system has discussed the concept with VW, but more information is needed.
Dr. Scales, who visited the German consulate in Atlanta about six weeks ago, said there’s an unknown number of children and the needed services are uncertain.
He added that Hamilton County is facing a serious budget shortfall.
“Adding any new program will be extremely difficult and possibly unlikely given budget constraints,” Dr. Scales said.
Meanwhile, VW has hired Michigan consulting firm IOR Global Services to help get its people settled in the Chattanooga area. The company provides relocation assistance, cross-cultural training and language tutoring to Fortune 500 companies.
Tommy Hudgins, assistant headmaster for institutional advancement at GPS, said the school recently hosted a delegation of nine people looking at education issues.
“Some of the delegation was from VW. Some was part of the contingent that will be here,” he said. “Some were human resources types here to get a read on things and go back and spread the word.”
Mr. Hudgins said the group members chatted with GPS Headmaster Randy Tucker, who led them on a tour of the campus.
“We’re hoping it was very effective,” Mr. Hudgins said. “Their biggest concern was: Will our kids be ready when they get back into the German system? Will they lose anything while they’re over here?”
GPS officials told them “with great confidence we’d be up to the challenge to teach the girls at a level they’re used to,” he said.
Mr. Hudgins said GPS doesn’t offer German now, but if there is enough interest, administrators would consider it.
In Germany, responsibility for the education system lies primarily with the states. VW’s headquarters and flagship plant are in the state of Lower Saxony, though the company has facilities across the country. The federal government has a minor role in the education of children.
School attendance in Germany is compulsory for 12 years. Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children between 3 and 6 years old.
Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...