A Naval Junior ROTC program is being developed for next school year at Washington High School.
The program would be available to St. Francis Borgia Regional High School students as well, officials said.
The school board Wednesday night gave unanimous approval authorizing district administration to pursue development of the program.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the program offers “tremendous opportunities” for students on multiple levels and she’s excited about the new course offering.
VanLeer noted similar programs are offered at Pacific and St. Clair High Schools.
School board members also were quick to voice their support, saying the program will be an asset to the high school.
“I think it will be an excellent program and opportunity for the kids,” said board president Scott Byrne, adding that people have asked why the district didn’t already have a program.
Byrne said there is a lot of community support for the program and he believes many organizations and groups will step up to the plate to support it.
Included in the board’s packet was a letter from Labadie Memorial Post 565 of the American Legion, stating its members voted unanimously to support the establishment of a program at WHS.
“I think it’s great, too,” said Dan Contarini, board member.
Brian Sumner, board member, said it will be interesting to learn just how many students want to sign up for the class.
“I feel it will be very popular,” Sumner said.
A representative of the Navy League, which supports school programs, was at the meeting Wednesday and spoke briefly to the board. He said the Naval Junior ROTC is more a citizenship program than a military program and will teach students the importance of doing their homework and showing up on time for things.
He also said ROTC students can participate in flag ceremonies both at school and in the community, compete in marching drill events, and apply for scholarships.
VanLeer said high school officials will begin promoting the program after winter break to gauge interest for the 2014-15 school year.
“We need 100 students to have it be fully funded, which I don’t think we’ll have the first year, but we think we can absorb it into the budget and master class schedule without any problem,” she told the board.
The NJROTC program will be housed in the West Wing of the high school, which has space for the classroom and drill room.
An instructor will need to be hired, VanLeer said, and enrollment will determine whether it’s a part- or full-time position.
“The district will pay the cost of the instructor,” she said. “There is the uniform expense, which is about $250 per uniform, which is the student’s responsibility, but we believe there will be some donations and support out there to help offset this cost.”
A curriculum outline, prepared by the Naval Service Training Command Pensacola, Fl., was included in the board’s packet.
It states the goals and objectives of the NJROTC program are to provide an opportunity for secondary school students to learn about the basic elements and requirements for national security and their personal obligations as American citizens to contribute toward national security.
The basic objectives are to promote patriotism; develop informed and responsible citizens; promote habits of orderliness and precision, and develop respect for constituted authority; develop a high degree of personal honor, self reliance, individual discipline and leadership;
Develop respect for and an understanding of the need for constituted authority in a democratic society; and develop an interest in the military service as a possible career.
VanLeer said she would report back to the board as the program develops. She also said any expense related to the program would come back to the board for approval.