10/1911 – Albany, NY –Adapted from a story in The Times Union – Albany, written by Scott Waldman, staff writer
The school announced Wednesday that the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program some considered at the core of its education will no longer be required, starting next fall. The program will still be available for students who want to participate, but making it elective rather than mandatory is expected to increase enrollment, Principal Jim Schlegel said.
“We wanted to create other opportunities for our children,” he said.
Schlegel said the school’s enrollment has grown for the last few years and the change is part of a long-term strategy to bring more students to CBA.
Enrollment is 372 this year, which is up from 330 two years ago, but down significantly from a high of 530 about six years ago.
The school’s future was on the line about two years ago when it was mulling a merger with the La Salle Institute, the region’s other school with a military focus founded by the Brothers of the Christian Schools 150 years ago. An alumni uprising scuttled the merger talks and fueled a fundraising campaign that brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, school officials acknowledged they need a long-term plan to survive, one that would include some changes.
Schlegel said making JROTC optional would allow students to sign up for more advanced placement classes, take additional classes for credit at Hudson Valley Community College or participate in the school’s nanotechnology program. He said those who value the JROTC program will still have it as an option, and the school’s military presence would still be on display with its color guard, honor guard, band and drill teams.
CBA is the second area school to diminish its military focus in the last six years. In 2005, The Albany Academy for Boys ended its mandatory battalion system that required all high school students to participate in at least some level of uniformed military-style marches and drills.
Still, doing anything differently in a school with so much history can be controversial. The military has been part of a CBA education since the 19th century. Many families enrolled their sons there for that reason and the school sends a handful of students to military academies every year.
Christine Van Ullen is glad her son only has one year left at the school because she and her friends are “disgusted” at the change and worry that it will weaken CBA. She said the military component transformed her son and that younger children entering the school won’t choose JROTC because it can be challenging and they won’t know the value of drilling.
Van Ullen said she and a number of other parents are disappointed that the decision was made without consulting parents. She said she expects a strong backlash from alumni who see JROTC as an essential part of the school.
“It’s part of the identity of the school,” she said. “It’s been there so long.”