The Henry County public school system is at risk of losing its JROTC program due to a lack of qualified participants and instructors.
School board members heard the news during a regular meeting Thursday when former Henry County School Board Chairman Curtis Millner walked slowly, aided by a cane, to the podium.
“I was the third instructor in the program here,” Millner said. “With everything happening in Ukraine and Russia, we need this program. It is very necessary.
Millner said he was 80 and had just had back surgery, but was willing to volunteer to help keep the program alive.
“The number of students enrolled in the Magna Vista program dropped and I couldn’t even get a definitive number of students enrolled in the Bassett High School program. I think they were afraid I would repeat it,” Millner said. “Through the American Legion, we have scholarships to give to these students, but we don’t get enough applications for what we have to give.”
People also read…
Not only is the number of students enrolled in JROTC declining, but three of the four JROTC instructors at Henry County schools have retired and despite an active search, no replacements have been found.
“We’ve had the same four for many years, but we’ve lost three out of four and we’re looking and trying to find qualified candidates to fill the positions,” Superintendent Sandy Strayer said. “If there are retired military personnel, we would like them to apply and come and teach at Henry County schools.”
Ridgeway District Board Member Francis Zehr said he has seen the benefits of the program in Henry County.
“I taught eighth grade at Axton Middle School for many years and many students were on the verge of going to jail, but thanks to the JROTC program, they ended up on the right path to success “, Zehr said. “Now these instructors are retiring and we have to pay them and our administrators more money because we are losing them.”
In other subjects, the council:
Learned masking has become optional for school and bus personnel due to a change in Centers for Disease Control guidelines and a drop in new COVID-19 cases in Henry County. “We are looking at social distancing and hope to be able to resume lunch in cafeterias soon,” Strayer said.
Acknowledged a proclamation from the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) designating March 2022 as VSBA Education Equity Month, with the intent that equity in education, best practices and programming be discussed in Virginia schools, communities and classrooms during this time.
Recognized March as Music Month in our Schools, March 6-12 as School Social Work Week and March 7-11 as National School Breakfast Week.
Recognized some of the local recipients of an award from the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Approved spending $750,000 on student iPads and cases, $100,000 on additional accessories, and $58,000 on iPad pencils for teachers.
Approved the expenditure of $150,000 for ActivPanels interactive whiteboards for classrooms.
Approved continued medical coverage for employees through Anthem covering 100% of premium at a cost to the school system of $13.7 million in the coming year, unchanged from the current year.
Continuous dental coverage approved for employees.
Approved a $300,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Health for expenses related to public health testing and communication, recommended isolation, quarantine protocols, meeting school needs, and assisting in facilitating responses to parents and school communities regarding COVID-19.
Heard a report from Strayer which said the average daily student enrollment in February was 6,579 students, down from 6,597 in January and down from 6,673 a year ago.
Agreed to keep March 17 as the scheduled date to approve the new school budget, but acknowledged that it may have to change due to uncertainties with the state budget.
The Board was reminded of the following dates:
March 17, special meeting at 6 p.m. in the Summerlin Meeting Room of the Henry County Administration Building.
March 26, All-Area Band at 4 p.m. at Martinsville High School.
April 7, regular monthly meeting at 9 am in the Summerlin meeting room.
Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 2360. Follow him @billdwyatt.