If all goes well, some students at Dodge City High School may soon be wearing uniforms – not school uniforms, but US Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) uniforms. The USD 443 Board of Education approved the application into the Air Force’s program at its Sept. 11 meeting.
“It helps kids to be able to prepare for whatever career they may be going into,” Dr. Glenn Fortmayer, assistant superintendent of secondary schools said. “Community Service is a huge function of ROTC and this is where we can give back to our staff, our schools, and also to the community.”
Fortmayer said the US Marine Corp is not currently accepting applications for new ROTC programs. In addition, the closest support facility for the NAVY JROTC is Kansas City. That left the US Army and Air Force as possible considerations.
“Fort Riley and Fort Sill both provide support for the Army program; but we’re outside of the one-day travel area so we would have to provide transportation and lodging,” Fortmayer explained. “Because of McConnell (Air Force Base in Wichita), we are in the provided area with the Air Force. Also, the Air Force program is very focused on STEM curriculum that matches some of our standards.”
Fortmayer said ROTC develops employability “soft skills” emphasized under Kansas College and Career Readiness Standards and the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation. The Air Force JROTC is 58 percent minority and 38 percent female. Students of poverty and minority benefit the most of the program, statistically.
“Character education is what most districts want to see from ROTC units,” Fortmayer said. “They show huge statistical positive impacts in schools where they are present.”
Fortmayer also explained that no student is excluded.
“While physical training is required, it’s open to everyone. You can be completely disabled and still take part in ROTC,” he said. “It’s not like the military where there is a height and weight standard that could eliminate people. They make sure it’s full participation but they do encourage wellness and health.”
According to Fortmayer, it also may offer another activity for students who may not otherwise participate in other areas.
“It’s a wonderful hands-on learning experience that meets directly with our standards in Kansas,” he said. “Students can earn college credits, attend summer camps, and earn scholarships.”
In order to begin a program, there must be a minimum of 100 cadets enrolled. However, most schools similar in size to Dodge City High School, average between 150-200 cadets. The students interested in the program would attend a cadet class every day, built into the regular school schedule.
Board member Jeff Hiers asked how the district would gauge student interest. Fortmayer said the district would speak to students, as well as conduct surveys. In the meantime, the application must be submitted by April 1, 2018.
“I believe we have a very strong opportunity here to have a unit,” Fortmayer said.
The district would be responsible for providing offices, as well as two classrooms for instruction.
“I was in ROTC in high school,” Hiers said. “It was a great experience. I really enjoyed it.”
The next board of education meeting is scheduled at noon Sept. 25 at Central Elementary.