A wing of Dominion High School will house a second Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, following a unanimous vote tonight by the Loudoun County School Board.
Space at Dominion in Sterling will open up in 2018 when the Academy of Science moves out and into the new Academies of Loudoun. With the board’s go-ahead this week, work to redesign the space will begin in the coming months, followed by a bid process, and the space will be renovated next summer to have the National Defense Cadet Corps program ready for students by the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
Right now, the county operates a Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program out of Loudoun County High School in Leesburg. The program is open to any high schooler in the county, but most of its cadets live in the Leesburg area because the school system does not provide transportation for students who opt for specialty programs outside of their home school.
Plus, the program is at capacity, with 206 students enrolled, and many students are turned away each year. Thirty-seven students applied for the 2016-2017 school year, and 25 were accepted.
“This is something that has been voiced to me for years,” Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said. “The decision to do this is a great thing for the eastern side of the county.”
A few board members, including Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), voiced support for providing bus service to students who enroll in JROTC. “We won’t be servings students if we can’t get them there,” Sheridan said.
School Board members Joy Maloney (Broad Run) and Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) ultimately supported opening a JROTC program at Dominion, but they both offered a word of caution. They said that space could one day be needed for regular classrooms, should enrollment tick up at Dominion or neighboring Potomac Falls High School.
“We do not want to be hearing next year from Pot Falls parents that they’re overcrowded and need trailers or to be rezoned,” Maloney said.
“Once we put in a program there it is very difficult to adjust and move it,” Hornberger added.
Rose, whose district includes Dominion and Potomac Falls, said she hasn’t heard complaints about crowding at Potomac Falls. “And there’s no new development in that area in the near future. … We’re good for now.”
Loudoun has relatively few offerings for young people interested in military careers. Loudoun has 78,348 public school students and just the one Navy JROTC program, while Prince William County has 89,000 students and nine programs (four Air Force, two Army, two Navy and one Marine); Chesterfield County has 60,000 students and five programs; Fairfax County has 187,467 students and eight programs; and Virginia Beach has 69,345 students and five programs, all Navy.
It’s estimated to cost about $400,000 to renovate the nine classrooms at Dominion into space for a JROTC program, and another $400,000 in annual instructional costs.