MALDEN, MO (KFVS) - It's a battle in Malden over the high school Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program.
The administration says it's in the students' best interest to replace the program with a vocational agriculture program. However, some parents and community members in Malden strongly support JROTC and say it's too valuable to cut.
"This is one of our pride and joys and we've got to keep it," David Shaw said.
Superintendent Kenneth Cook says the JROTC program has gone from about 100 students when it first started to 37 members.
"My job as CEO or superintendent of this district is to provide the best quality education that I can for our students," Cook said. "Right now, with only 37 students in that program, it's very difficult for me to justify the program from an educational standpoint. It really has nothing to do with the quality of the program or the quality of the kids coming out of it, it's just numbers and, in my opinion, we need to offer more opportunity for our students."
Community members say the JROTC program teaches students valuable lessons.
"Definitely respect, everything is 'Yes sir, yes ma'am, no sir, no ma'am,'" Dana Gough said."I just can't say enough for those kids."
Gough is the activity director at a local nursing home. She says the JROTC members are an asset to the entire community.
"The cadets have always been there for our dinners, dances, our Veterans Day celebrations, everything I've ever needed and my veterans and other residents in my nursing home are going to be devastated if this program is dismissed, if they don't have it any longer," Gough said.
Many parents and community members showed their support for the program at a school board meeting earlier this week.
"There was a motion, a second, and then subsequently a vote to discontinue the JROTC program and start a vocational agriculture program. The motion failed by a 3-3 vote," Cook said.
However, the discussion is not over. Cook says the board will likely re-visit this issue during the December 17th meeting. He says the agriculture program would provide more opportunities for students.
"With JROTC, it's one elective class. It meets six times during the day, but it's one elective. So if you're in JROTC, but with vocational agriculture, you could be in an ag. construction class, you could be in horticulture, you could be in ag. science one, or whatever course we are offering. It's not the same course all day long," Cook said.
Parents say there's no doubt the agriculture program would be great, but they say it shouldn't have to be one or the other.
"The ag. program will bring in a lot of good things," Denton Kooyman said. "It will bring a lot of curriculum into the school. We want to see that. We want to give our kids all the choices they can get. We want to give our kids the best future they can have and to take away a program in lieu of another we just don't see that happening."
Cook says having both programs is likely not an option.
"If it was just a matter of adding the agriculture program, they would have already voted for it. It'd be done. I fully believe that because the community is well behind it," Cook said. "Right now it'd be difficult to have both programs. It'd be hard to justify both programs, let me put it that way, due to the numbers that are in JROTC."
Parents and community members say they'll be speaking out at the next school board meeting and encourage others to do the same.