Starting next school year, Union students will have the option to take part in the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) program.

The Union R-XI School District announced at Tuesday’s board of education meeting it has reached an agreement with the Washington School District that will allow a group of Union students to take part in the program.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold said under the agreement, the district has to pay one-seventh of the instructor’s salary.

The NJROTC program was started at Washington High School at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. Students from St. Francis Borgia Regional High School joined onto the program in the first year.

School Board President Dr. Virgil Weideman said the district has looked at getting a JROTC program at the school for years, but has been told it isn’t an option.

Weideman said he’s been told the programs are based on need in the area and the Franklin County region is full. In addition to the Navy program at WHS, a Marine Corps JROTC operates in the Meramec Valley R-III School District and students in St. Clair can take part in the Air Force JROTC.

“Kudos for making this happen,” Weideman said. 

In order for UHS students to take part in the program, they’ll have to go to WHS. 

UHS Principal Amy Kain said, so far, 30 students have signed up for the program. She said Union has up to 35 allotted spaces. 

“I’m pretty excited with the number of students we have enrolled,” she said.

The course will be one credit for Union students. She said the students will actually start their day earlier to take part in the program.

The plan is to leave UHS at 7 a.m. to go to Washington, Kain said. The class will run from 7:25 to 8:15 a.m. 

Students will be bused back to UHS, hopefully in time to get ready for second hour.

Kain said she was a little nervous about the time frame, but students have already shown an interest and a willingness to start their day earlier. 

Weinhold said in addition to helping pay the instructor’s salary, the district might have to foot the bill for uniforms. That doesn’t seem to be the case for the first year.

Weinhold said the current instructor, Master Sgt. Tim Gates, has informed Union that they have uniforms right now.

The program acts like a modified basic training, Weinhold said. The students learn a lot of things, but there’s an emphasis on leadership.

The leadership component is a big plus, Weinhold said. Students also are taught self-discipline, respect and teamwork.

Weideman said he has family members who have been through the JROTC program and he is a big fan. 

“I’ve seen the results of the program,” he said. “It’s a lot about leadership and they come out as very fine young adults.”

Weinhold said Washington has been great to work with throughout the entire process. 

Program Background

The curriculum is approved by the Department of Defense and starts with Naval Science 1.

The class is offered as a regular high school elective course. Students will have regular class time and military training incorporated in the class.

They also will participate in many extracurricular events with the area ROTC and Navy programs.

The NJROTC program was established by law in 1964 and may be found in Title 10, U.S. Code, Chapter 102.

The program is conducted at accredited secondary schools throughout the nation, by instructors who are retired Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard officers and enlisted personnel.

The NJROTC curriculum emphasizes citizenship and leadership development, as well as maritime heritage, the significance of sea power and naval topics such as the fundamentals of naval operations, seamanship, navigation and meteorology.

Classroom instruction is augmented throughout the year by community service activities, drill competition, field meets, flights, visits to naval activities, marksmanship training, and other military training.