Navy JROTC gets reprieve, if district picks up entire tab

September 6, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

A Navy spokesman said local officials potentially could save the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Issaquah High School.

But only if the district was willing to take on the entire cost of running the program, said Mike Miller, of the Naval Training Service Command.

In an e-mail to Issaquah High JROTC students and their families, district schools Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said a district takeover of the program is not practical.

In July, the Navy announced plans to disestablish the Issaquah JROTC program, along with 28 other units nationally, because of low enrollment combined with budget restraints. Under the Navy’s plan, the unit will stay active through the coming school year, but would be formally disbanded as of June 30, 2012.

The move will not affect the JROTC program at Liberty High School, and Rasmussen said Issaquah High JROTC members would be able to transfer into the Liberty program.

As for the Issaquah High unit, it could transform into a branch of the National Defense Cadet Corps, Miller said. The Department of Defense would allow the unit to operate no matter its enrollment. District officials already have decided against that option for several reasons, including the price tag, Rasmussen said.

“To incur that significant expense to provide a less robust alternative for our students does not make fiscal sense when we have faced more than $12 million in state revenue cuts,” Rasmussen said.

Just to pay the unit’s instructors would cost the district $76,000 a year, according to Sara Niegowski, district executive director of communications.

Going beyond cost, district leaders want interested students to enroll “in an official, proven NJROTC program rather than an alternative that is run with little or no direct contact with the Navy,” Rasmussen said.

Transferring to Liberty seems a better option for those Issaquah High students who want to continue in JROTC, Rasmussen added.

Miller said about seven schools nationwide have the Defense Corps program. Individual district economics are a definite factor, Miller said.

“We hate it that we have to close units,” he added.

Rasmussen vowed the Liberty program would serve as a viable alternative to that at Issaquah High.

“Overall, I am disappointed that Issaquah High will lose the NJROTC program on its campus,” Rasmussen added. “But our high schools are unified in their dedication to keeping a strong, viable NJROTC option at Liberty High available to all students. Each of our campuses will work together to help students access this option this year and into the future.”

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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