SALEM — Last week, it looked like the high school’s Air Force JROTC program was going to be deactivated by the Air Force because of low enrollment.
This week, however, the School Board approved a plan that will keep the program running for at least the next two years.
The program will be run under the auspices of the National Defense Cadet Corps rather than the Air Force.
Superintendent Michael Delahanty said the only difference is that the district will now have to fund the $59,500 of the program’s $191,000 operating budget that was previously funded by the Air Force.
The district first received word from the Air Force at the end of February that the JROTC program would have to be deactivated because it did not meet the minimum number of 100 cadets enrolled in the program, according to Delahanty.
After receiving the correspondence from the Air Force, Delahanty said he worked to appeal the decision.
“The Air Force requires us to have 100 cadets,” he said. “To that point, we’ve never really been required to have 100 cadets.”
Since the program was established in 2000, Delahanty said there has only been one year where there was more than 100 cadets enrolled.
“We’ve had correspondence from the Air Force over the years, but never to the point where they’ve said you don’t have 100 cadets so you have to begin deactivating,” he said.
Delahanty wrote a letter appealing the decision and said he believed there was a chance the Air Force would continue to support the program.
“We have an outstanding unit that means a great deal not only to our school and school district, but also to our community,” Delahanty said. “It represents the school district with tremendous dignity and pride and reflects all the attributes and characteristics that I would want in youth today.”
The district received a follow-up letter at the end of March, however, denying the appeal.
Delahanty said it looked like the deactivation would move forward, and he met with the cadets last Thursday to break the news to them.
“It was a very difficult conversation, and I know the kids were crushed,” he said.
On Friday, Delahanty said he received word from the Air Force that the JROTC may be able to continue under the NDCC. The only difference between being under the Air Force and the NDCC is that under the NDCC, the district receives no funding for the program.
“We can still be called an Air Force JROTC program, the cadets can continue to wear the uniforms and continue to have ranks within the units,” said Delahanty. “They can continue to attend leadership training and continue to attend drill team meets.”
The JROTC program could continue to fall under the NDCC umbrella for the next two school years. After that time, Delahanty said there would be the possibility the program could be deactivated if it fails to reach the 100 cadet mark.
Delahanty said the cadets, their parents and supporters have promised to promote the program in the community in efforts to top the enrollment mark. If the program does hit the enrollment mark, Delahanty said it is possible to reapply with the Air Force and once again have it pay for part of the program.
“I think we need to stress that the program needs 100 cadets whether the new organization requires it or not so we can reapply to the Air Force in two years,” said School Board member Michael Carney. “I think this program is an outstanding benefit to all the cadets in there. Many have found their place through the JROTC program as a vital part of our community.”