The Bulloch County Board of Education is on the hunt for two qualified military personnel to lead the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program at Portal Middle High School.
After some consideration of a proposal to eliminate the course at Portal and bus students to Statesboro High School for JROTC, the school board voted to keep the program in Portal, said Bulloch County School Superintendent Dr .Lewis Holloway.
Parents, students and other concerned citizens attended a BOE meeting in early May to protest the proposal. At the next BOE meeting, board members voted to keep the JROTC program in place and hire two instructors. One of the previous instructors retired, and the other requested a transfer to Southeast Bulloch High School, where there remains yet another opening, he said.
Schools are required to have two JROTC instructors who are military trained. One can be a non-Commissioned office (NCO), but one must be a trained, certified officer, Holloway said. “The Army pays half the salary.”
The school board, after hearing parents and students speak and reviewing the issue further, “ saw the value of the program after reviewing the numbers,” said Assistant Superintendent Charles Wilson.
Out of 448 students at Portal Middle/High School (the total includes both high school and middle school students), 64 students took JROTC the first semester, and 57 took the course the second semester. Some students took the course both semesters, Holloway said.
Out of 846 students at Southeast Bulloch High school, (all high school students), 78 took the course first semester, and 62 took it the second semester, he said.
At Statesboro High, which has 1,336 students (all high school age), 112 took JROTC the first quarter and 116 took the course the latter part of the year, he said.
“We reviewed an updated number of students, looked at that, and thought the program should continue,” he said.
The vote was good news to Portal citizens, including the ones who attended the meeting in early May to express support for the JROTC program.
“I think it’s great,” said Portal City Council member Jerry Lanigan. “It’s a program the kids need up here. A lot of them go on into the service after school. I am glad they decided to (keep) the program.”
Rhonda Busbee agreed. “I’m very glad they are going to keep it in Portal,” she said. “I’m happy about it. (JROTC) is one of the few elective classes – we have no more art, no drama – they do have a marketing class. We don’t even have a technology class. ”
The JROTC program helps inspire students to stay in school and further education after graduation, as well as encourages them to join the military, she said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.