The Army Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program ended its 25-year stint at the Patrick County High School on June 30.
It began August 1, 1993, according to Chuck Perry, senior education and training tech for the 4th Brigade JROTC, which oversees the local program.
Perry said the Army was notified the program would be discontinued when they received a memo from the school administration in Patrick County.
Patrick County Schools Superintendent Bill Sroufe said he complied with the Army’s request for a written notice when he sent a memo notifying them the school board decided to discontinue the program.
Perry said the memo stated in part the school board reached the difficult decision to discontinue the program due to declining enrollment in the class as well as the retirement of the senior Army instructor (SAI).
With 879 students enrolled in PCHS, the number of students electing to participate in the JROTC program is less than the amount required by the Army’s protocol.
Perry said the Army has enrollment guidelines that call for 100 cadets or 10 percent of the number of students enrolled in a school to participate, whichever is less.
If enrollment falls below those prescribed guidelines, the school would be notified and placed on probation for the first and second years, Perry said. If enrollment had not increased by the third year, the Army could elect to discontinue the program, he added.
According to enrollment reports from PCHS, 53 seats were requested in the program for the upcoming school year, Sroufe said. That total includes duplicate registrations for students who signed up for the program in both the first and second semesters, he said.
Based on the number of students enrolled, Sroufe said four students would have been assigned to the first block of the first semester JROTC class. The largest class — 10 students – would have been assigned to the fourth block class during the second semester, he said.
With four students in class during first block and only two students in class for second block, “how do you justify that” to a teacher with, for example, 20 students per class, he asked.
Last year, 73 seats were requested for the program, with a total of 55 students actually enrolled and the remainder duplicate registrations for the second semester, Sroufe said.
Perry also explained two instructors are needed for each JROTC program: a senior Army instructor (SAI) and a non commissioned officer (NCO).
The Army requires the senior officer to have earned a bachelor’s degree, and the NCO to have earned an associate’s degree, he said.
“We train and certify them,” but the Army does not grant teaching credentials, Perry said. He noted the Army also does not require instructors to have a teaching credential, but some states do require credentials even though the class is an elective.
Virginia is among those states that require a teaching credential, officials have said.
Perry said hiring those instructors is left to the discretion of each participating school division.
Brandon Simmons, vice chairman of the Patrick County School Board, said that is true. However, the Army provides the local division with a list of potential instructor candidates.
The potential employee provided for the upcoming school year accepted a position in another locality, Simmons said.
Sroufe said school officials also “looked at how many students actually entered the military” after participating in the JROTC program. “Since 2013, we’ve only had 15 (JROTC participants) to enter” the military, he said. “We took all those factors into account.”
A few weeks before the end of the current school year, PCHS officials told students the program would be discontinued, Sroufe said. “Not one student came in upset, and no parents have contacted” officials at the high school, he said he was told.
A Facebook page titled “Patrick County High School JROTC,” was created by JROTC staff on Aug. 29, 2017 to help communicate with cadets, according to information on the page.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were two other posts – one dated Aug. 31, 2017 and the final one dated Sept. 5, 2017. The page received had 20 likes, has 24 followers and was reviewed one time.
Although interest seems to be waning, local school officials have said they are looking into the possibility of continuing some form of the program, perhaps as an after school offering.
Perry said there is no way to continue the federal JROTC program on a part-time basis. However, there are other similar programs that may fit the bill, including a state militia program.
Now that Patrick’s program has ended, Army officials will consult a waiting list of 300 schools to determine which division will get a new JROTC program, Perry said.
“JROTC is nothing more than a citizenship program,” Perry said, and explained the program’s goal is to help youngsters become better youth. “Everything we do is based on problem solving, team work” and a host of other real world experiences, he said.