NASHUA — School officials are recommending that Nashua take the U.S. Air Force up on its offer to open a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit, JROTC, at one of the city’s two high schools.
Col. Kevin Grady, an ROTC instructor at Alvirne High School in Hudson, presented an overview of the program to the Board of Education’s Curriculum and Evaluation Committee this week.
Committee members voted to recommend the three-year program, which includes academic courses in aerospace science, and personal development courses in leadership, communication and career planning.
If approved by the full board, JROTC will start in September at either Nashua High North or Nashua High South, but the program will be open to students at both schools.
Grady stressed that JROTC is not geared toward students planning on military service after graduation.
“It’s really a citizenship and character development program,” said Grady. “We are not in the military recruiting business.”
The academic portion of the program focuses on subjects such as aviation history, astronomy and geography, and the curriculum is aligned to the Common Core Standards.
Grady said other required courses were developed to help students learn real-life skills that are not always taught in high schools.
“We teach health and wellness because a lot of these kids aren’t in very good condition,” said Grady. The program also covers effective communication, informed citizenship and career-building skills such writing a resume, applying to college and finding the money to pay for college.
Grady said students who opt to become JROTC cadets will be required to wear a uniform to school one day a week.
“Generally, we don’t have a hard time getting kids to cut their hair and adopt a military look,” he said, adding that the Air Force picks up the cost of uniforms and also pays for textbooks, course equipment and field trips.
The Nashua School District would be required to hire a teaching team of one retired Air Force commissioned officer and one non-commissioned officer, and to pay half their teaching salaries. Nashua must also build enrollment in the program to 100 students within three years.
“It’s a program that can resonate with different students,” said Superintendent Mark Conrad, who anticipated a strong interest at both Nashua North and South.
Conrad added the cost of teacher salaries would not increase the school budget. The JROTC program would be offered in place of other courses, and Conrad said teacher retirements may make it possible to add the JRTOC instructors to the staff without any changes.
BOE Curriculum Committee Chairman David Murotake, a retired commissioned officer who is still active with the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary as a ground team leader and member of the Chaplains Service, said the JROTC curriculum is a blend of many things.
“I think the program will inject a positive element into the high schools,” he said. “Students who view the (cadets) will begin to see them as role models.”
Grady said other districts that have started JROTC programs have seen a change in their school cultures.
“You have 100 kids walking around doing the right thing because it’s the thing to do,” he said.