The Norwin school board will ask the U.S. Air Force for a feasibility study to determine whether the district should implement a Junior ROTC program for students in grades nine through 12.
The board voted unanimously Monday to apply for the study.
Superintendent William Kerr said the feasibility study will determine student interest. At least 100 students would need to sign up for Junior ROTC, which would be a voluntary elective course, before it would be implemented.
Mr. Kerr said the district will probably not wait until the April 2013 deadline to apply.
On Monday, Senior Master Sergeant Otis DiCerbo and Major Scott Harbula of the West Mifflin Area High School Air Force JROTC program and about 12 students in the program gave a presentation on Junior ROTC to Norwin school directors and administrators.
The program "provides many learning opportunities for students that might not be offered otherwise," and helps pupils learn leadership skills, Mr. Kerr said.
According to a press release from the district, the Junior ROTC curriculum is 40 percent aerospace science, 40 percent leadership education and 20 percent physical fitness. The curriculum would emphasize Air Force traditions and instruction on the development of flight, space exploration, military aerospace policies and applied flight sciences.
If enough students show interest and if the Air Force approves the program, it would be offered in fall of 2014.
During Monday's voting meeting, the board also approved the creation of a superintendent's task force for the efficient use of district resources.
Mr. Kerr said the task force will focus on cutting costs in every aspect of the budget. Mr. Sturm said the district was able to cut costs during the last two years without reducing academic offerings, but the cuts weren't easy.
Discussion in the workshop session before the meeting, focused on changes in the PSSA tests and Keystone exams.
Tracy McNelly, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said the 11th grade PSSA test will be replaced with a Keystone exam.
Ms. McNelly said she likes the Keystone exams better than the old PSSA tests, because the Keystones are given at the end of a course.
When passage of the Keystone exams was made part of requirements for a high school diploma, critics said some students have significant test anxieties that prevent them from doing well on exams, regardless of their I.Q. or learning achievements.
Critics of the change in graduation requirements said each student's academic record should determine whether he or she graduates, and that no student should be denied a high school diploma because of the results of a single test.
Board Vice President Thomas Sturm expressed a similar concern.
"Theoretically, you could have kids who have a passing grade in the course who fail to graduate," he said.
Mrs. McNelly said students who do not test well will have a number of opportunities to take the Keystone exam. If a student fails to pass it twice, the student will be allowed to do an online project in place of the exam, she said.
Anne Cloonan, freelance: email@example.com.