Indian River High’s JROTC in jeopardy of losing stripes; enrollment below Marine Corps requirement

 

DAGSBORO — Indian River High School’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps is in jeopardy of possibly losing its JROTC stripes.

An upcoming Marine Corps’ school visit and a time extension request may weigh heavily in determining the fate of the school’s program that has historically been below U.S. Marine Corps ROTC enrollment requirements.

No formal decisions were made after Indian River school board members met in executive session at the March 21 meeting.

According to IRSD spokesman David Maull, the board instructed Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting to “draft a letter to the Marine Corps asking for an additional extension on that. The program at Indian River has a site visit from the Marine Corps on April 4. I think there are some board members who might want to participate in that.”

“Basically we are going to ask for another extension, have that site visit go through and then pick up the issue again,” said Mr. Maull, adding that the Marine Corps did grant “us one extension when the original notification was received.”

Jim Hudson, IRSD school board president, said he could not speak on specifics but said there are several potential options.

One would involve better recruiting efforts to “maintain what we have,” Mr. Hudson said.

Under U.S. Code, MCJROTC enrollment requires a minimum 100 cadets or 10 percent of the student population; whichever is less throughout the academic school year.

Indian River’s unit has averaged in the mid-60s for many years. Current grade 9-12 enrollment is just less than 900 students, Mr. Hudson said.

If the ROTC program fails to meet enrollment standards, another option is to convert the unit to a Marine Corps National Defense Cadet Corps.

The National Defense Cadet Corps is similar to JROTC but must be fully funded by school or school district, which incurs costs for instructor salaries, uniforms and operational expenses.

JROTC units receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Defense, which pays for a portion of instructor salaries.

“I believe right now it is about 50 percent,” said IRHS Principal Bennett Murray, noting as a NDCC unit the Indian River district would pay 100 percent.

School board discussion stemmed from a Feb. 22 correspondence from Ret. Col. Robert G. Oltman, MCJROTC Director in Quantico, Va., to IRSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting.

The letter stated that Indian River High School’s MCJROTC October 2015-unit strength report “indicates your unit enrollment is below the minimum that is statutorily mandated and has been for consecutive years.”

“Accordingly this letter serves as notification your unit may be disestablished at the end of the school year 2016-’17, if the minimum and eligibility requirements are not met,” Ret. Col. Oltman’s letter stated. “While disestablishment is a possibility, as a longtime partner in education I would like to extend another alternative; the opportunity to convert your unit from a MCJROTC unit to a Marine Corps National Defense Cadet Corps.”

Major Frank Ryman, a 17-year JROTC instructor at Indian River High School, said unit enrollment has typically averaged around 64 for years.

IRSD board member Dr. Donald Hattier asked what the reasons might be for enrollment remaining below standards.

“We’re still scratching our heads,” said Maj. Ryman.

Woodbridge High School in Bridgeville and First State Military Academy in Clayton are the other Marine Corps JROTC programs in Delaware.

The JROTC and NDCC programs are intended to build citizenship and leadership skills; there is no obligation to enter military service.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.