For the award-winning Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program at Spring High School, it’s been a banner few years.
The program at Spring High School has grown into the largest Navy JROTC unit in Texas and one of the largest in the country, regularly earning high honors in annual inspections and competitions. It’s an achievement kick-started in part by the construction of the James C. Boyer NJROTC Building, named after the retired Navy captain who led the program for more than 18 years, built using funds from the 2016 Spring ISD bond program. The custom-designed facility was a part of the Spring High School Ninth Grade Center project.
It was a big change for the program, which was previously housed in decades-old portable buildings.
“The portables served their purpose,” said Chief Master Mark Clarke, Naval Science Instructor at Spring High School. “But the program started to expand exponentially. Before you knew it, we [were at] 500 students in the portables. And it became unmanageable. It affected their learning environment, and our ability to keep them focused and keep them learning.”
After the passing of the 2016 bond program, the new facility was designed by architecture firm PBK. Located between the ninth-grade center and the main high school, the facility includes a host of features, from a firing range to an armory to improved storage, befitting a top-notch NJROTC program.
“We have a multi-function space, which can serve as our shooting range,” Clarke said, listing off the facility’s features. “We have our own hydration stations, our own ice maker. We have our own washer and dryer. We have showers. We have everything one would need to function on deck.”
Looking around the large indoor shooting range, he remarked on the vast improvement on the days before the new facility.
“We didn’t even have restrooms in the portables,” he said. “Our classrooms doubled as the changing rooms, storage, and a closet. Now their classroom is just the classroom. The only thing being conducted there is learning.”
While the old portables hold a nostalgic place in the mind of Cadet Carolina Viney, a senior at Spring High School, she still appreciates the updated facility.
“I like the buildings out of nostalgia, from my freshman year,” Viney said. “They worked for what they were, but it was a struggle. It looks brighter in the new building, people want to actually be here.”
Aside from just the aesthetic upgrades, Viney pointed out that the newer building had other impacts.
“There was no room to teach maneuvers inside the classroom, which is preferred especially when it’s really hot or really cold,” she said. “Having a building like this, where we have a rifle range and classrooms, makes a big impact. It makes you want to act nice. It’s a morale booster. It helped to bring confidence to Spring High School.”
Her colleague in the program, Kaleb Ward, did not mince words when it came to the old portables.
“It was horrible,” the senior and Executive Officer said. “Whenever it was hot outside, it was hot inside. And vice versa. The portables were so small, and we had to jam everybody in there. I think the new building really helps the appeal of the program overall.”
The new facility was a clear improvement for the program, which routinely has more than 500 students enrolled. Many of the students taking part in the program go on to secure ROTC scholarships for college or prestigious service academy appointments, with more than $150 million in scholarships awarded in the program’s history.
For Chief Master Clarke, the new facility is a part of that sterling legacy.
“This place is an attraction,” he said. “We teach them resource stewardship. It’s what we teach their first week here, is how to take care of this stuff.”
As voters in Spring ISD consider a new $850 million bond, set for the November 8 election, a brand new Spring High School building is on the table. For Chief Master Clarke, the success of the campus 9th Grade Center – and the James C. Boyer NJROTC Building – has paved the way for a new main campus.
“We’ve outgrown this facility and the architecture of the main building. The narrow hallways, the lower ceilings, the fluorescent lighting instead of LED,” he said. “A brighter environment, a fresh coat of paint, and just more space to operate would do wonders for these kids.”
For Cadet Viney, a new building means creating a legacy for Spring High School, even though she won’t be around to enjoy it.
“It’s a lot about the legacy,” the senior said. “It’s about putting out the best for the students of Spring High School.”For more information on the Spring ISD 2022 Bond, please visit springisd.org/bond. There are three propositions, totaling $850 million. The general election takes place on Tuesday, November 8. Early voting takes place from October 24 through November 4.