Flowery Branch High School may lose its JROTC program for the 2016-17 school year because of low enrollment numbers, but members of the group are trying to recruit new students.
The program needs 100 students per year, according to Air Force regulations, Flowery Branch principal Jason Carter said Monday, and it has not met that number since it was started three years ago.
“This is the third year of the program,” Carter said. “And for the past two years, we haven’t had the minimum number.”
Carter said 55 students are on the roll now, but of that number, only 37 have signed up for next school year.
From registration numbers, Carter said, 76 are signed up for JROTC for 2016-17. However, he said, “that is not a true number” because it includes some students who were placed in it because they did not complete their schedules.
Carter said the school system and charter school money helped get the JROTC program started.
However, he added, he is waiting for a final decision on the program from the Air Force. The preliminary judgment was that the Air Force would no longer approve the course.
“It’s just a matter of numbers and the regulations, and we aren’t meeting them — haven’t been meeting them,” Carter said.
The program has two instructors — one of whom is retiring at the end of the year — and it costs Hall County about $165,000 for salaries and benefits, according to superintendent Will Schofield. He described the program as “very pricy.”
Some members of the JROTC will try to recruit additional students from Davis Middle School this week. Carter said the JROTC members would visit the middle school “to see if there is interest.”
Braden Parks, a junior at Flowery Branch, has been a member of the program since it started. He has been the Air Force JROTC corps commander since January, he said.
“We are left with very few options,” Parks said by email. “The most obvious is try to increase the number of cadets enrolled to 100 before the Air Force can shut us down.”
“There have been several cadets who joined together and created a miniature presentation on what JROTC means to them and what we do to show to students around our school to raise awareness,” he added.
Schofield said the system has two JROTC programs — the one at Flowery Branch and a Navy one at East Hall High School — “both of them have struggled with participation numbers.”
He said East Hall has been a “reserve” program for the past couple of years, but participation is up and the full program may be restored there.
Carter and Schofield praised the program.
“We hate to lose that pathway,” Schofield said.
Said Carter: “It’s a great program.”
But Schofield noted the system will not continue it if participation does not increase.