Leaders from the Wichita school district, the Kansas Department of Education, WSU Tech and Textron Aviation came back from a visit to Georgia with more questions than answers about how an aviation curriculum in the Wichita schools could lead to well-paying jobs right out of high school.
The Textron program in Augusta, Ga., had students learning about manufacturing while also spending part of their days making golf carts. The labor portion of the program wasn’t going to translate in Wichita.
“It had a pathway, but not quite what we were looking for,” school superintendent Alicia Thompson said. “We didn’t want to give up on this, but we had to think about what we could do.”
Thompson and WSU Tech president Sheree Utash talked more, and local Textron leaders weren’t ready to give up, either. The result is Aviation Pathway, a curriculum where high school students study aerospace topics along with core classes, working toward a diploma and certificate that make them job-ready upon graduation.
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The program already has 250 students signing up for prerequisite classes, a sign the program could (pun intended) take off from the start. North, Northwest, Southeast and West high schools will be homes to the program if approved this summer by the Kansas Board of Education.
A draft of a sample four-year class schedule provided by the district shows freshmen would take two Pathways classes, three as a sophomore, four as a junior and senior. Subjects the last two years would be at WSU Tech’s National Center for Aviation Training.
Aviation Pathway fits well within the vision of Kansas education commissioner Randy Watson, whose department’s Gemini Project seeks new paths to graduation for students who aren’t college bound but can learn more about their post-education interests while in school. Wichita’s Cessna Elementary and Chester Lewis Academic Learning Center will be in the second phase of the project.