COVENTRY, RI- After 41 years, the Coventry High School U.S. Air Force Junior ROTC program will disappear. The U.S. Air force, which funds the program, says the school has not met its minimum requirement to have 100 students participate.
This termination came as no surprise; Coventry High School hasn't met that requirement for the last eight years. Everyone's just surprised that this year it's being enforced.
"We've got up close to 96, 98, and then we've dropped back down and this last year we're back down to 77," said Colonel Steven Buteau.
Col. Buteau, instructor and retired airmen blames the military's diminishing budget.
"66–70 million dollar budget nation–wide for Air Force JROTC has shrunk down about12% so that's a big chunk of money and so they have to prioritize," said Buteau.
"Now, I'm kind of lost. I put a lot of effort into this one program. I put everything I had and having it turn to nothing, and have it being treated like it was nothing this whole time kind of hurts," said public affairs officer, Katelynn Stalaboin.
By the end of the semester, all uniforms, text books, and computers funded by the program will be returned to the Air Force. This includes the termination of the two ROTC instructors.
JROTC Commander, Mason Raposa said, "It's a bummer for a lot of them. A lot of kids are trying to keep this program but it's kind of hard to keep when we're already signed off."
Many describe the program as an outlet for students and a way to shape them for the future.
"Kids come in and they're lost. They don't have anywhere to go. This is like, kind of like the outcast club I guess of the school," said Stalaboin.
Students have sought to over rule the decision, but it's final. They can reapply for the program once they get the numbers up. The only thing to remain here in the school come June are the trophies, some of which are from national drill competitions; a reminder of what was and will no longer be here at Coventry High.
After this program is cut, only one other Air Force Junior ROTC will be active in the state at Woonsocket high school.