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Hoover High Hopes to Start Navy ROTC Program in 1986

August 01, 1985|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

Reflecting a nationwide move back to military training in public schools, Glendale school officials and local business people are trying to revive Junior ROTC in the Glendale Unified School District.

Preparations are under way to start a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Hoover High School, where at least 100 students are needed by the fall of 1986. The plan requires school board approval.

Glendale's only previous Junior ROTC program, sponsored by the Army, was disbanded in the late 1960s. Hoover Principal Don Duncan said the program died because of lack of interest and a shortage of classroom space.

But, with a swing toward conservatism, many young people's attitudes toward ROTC apparently have changed, district officials said. No protests, such as those staged in the 1960s anti-war movement, are expected. Instead, school board members say, students probably will enroll for patriotic, as well as pragmatic, reasons.

"It appears that young people are interested in it again," Glendale Board of Education Trustee Jane Whitaker said. "We try to find the right work experience opportunities to help young people find careers. This program is a very good steppingstone."

The Glendale school board supports the program in concept, board member June Sweetnam said. But it doesn't know how much the program will cost, and the policy-makers must hold a public hearing before approving the school's application to the Navy.

The school this fall must survey its 1,620 students to make sure that at least 100 are interested in joining the program. That is not expected to be a problem, school officials said.

Clearly, the high school ROTC program is back in demand nationwide, after suffering a loss in popularity through the 1960s. Of the 11 Navy programs in high schools in the Los Angeles area, nine were started after 1970, said Capt. William Green, the Navy's area manager for the western United States.

"The units are increasing their numbers in most locations," Green said. "The Navy has a long waiting list of schools which would like to have a program."

The proposal to apply for a Navy training program in Glendale was initiated by Hoover history teacher Al Gow, a World War II Navy veteran. Gow said he got the idea after attending an annual banquet honoring Navy Junior ROTC cadets from Pasadena High School.

'Why Not Our Kids?'

"I sat at these things for a number of years and then I thought, 'Why not our kids?' " Gow said. "The Navy awards a number of four-year scholarships to students, they get tours of Navy bases, a chance to go on a Navy cruise. If they decide to enlist, they get an extra stripe right off the bat. . . . And about half the students I saw receive outstanding-cadet awards were girls."

Gow said he has made an informal survey among his students. "I had a pretty fair number who are interested," he said.

One of reasons for the program's revived popularity, naval instructors say, is that each high school ROTC can award one four-year college scholarship each June--up to $50,000 for tuition and books. Scholarship winners must enroll in a college ROTC program and, after one year of college, must sign a contract binding them to four years of military service after graduation. However, there are no strings attached for high school students.

Space for Classes, Equipment

Before the Navy considers Hoover's application, the school must guarantee space for classes five days a week and storage space for uniforms, books, dummy rifles, flags and banners.

Although there are no classrooms available on the Hoover campus, the military affairs committee of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce has said it will provide trailers on campus for the program.

Committee Chairman Ken Doty said his group has a house trailer, donated for the program by Carvel Gay, a local businessman. Modifications to the trailer, as well as any additional trailers needed, will be provided through donations, Doty said.

Salary Costs Split

"We've committed to providing the space one way or another," Doty said.

The salaries of the two retired military officers required to teach the naval science classes are split between the Navy and participating school districts. That would cost the district about $30,000 annually, Green said. The Navy provides textbooks, uniforms, instructional aids and $1,200 for transportation expenses.

Because of budget limitations, only 233 high school programs are funded nationwide. Hoover's application can be accepted only after another high school drops its program. An average of three to five units a year are disbanded, Green said, because those schools' enrollments drop below the required 100-student minimum for two consecutive years. So Glendale officials are optimistic that the program can start next year.

Students in Junior ROTC attend one class a day, with three days a week reserved for academic subjects such as seamanship, naval history and navigation. Two days a week, students practice marching and physical conditioning.

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