BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District is looking to the sky to help prepare students for the future.
Beginning this fall, the district will launch the first course in what it hopes will become a robust aerospace academy for high school students interested careers in aviation. The goal is to give students a foundation for those types of jobs, bolstering the local workforce and attracting new industry to the county.
"We are very, very, very excited about this," said Hernando superintendent Lori Romano.
The program is starting small.
In its first year, the district hopes to attract 25 freshmen and sophomores to participate in Aerospace Technologies I, a yearlong overview course. The class will be taught at Nature Coast Technical High School.
"We felt as though this would be a great foundation," said Sophia Watson, the district's supervisor of adult and community education.
Current freshman and sophomores who want to enroll in the program must apply no later than Wednesday. The district will select the students through a lottery if more than 25 apply.
So far, 65 students have indicated interest in the program and will receive letters about the application process.
The School Board has given tentative approval to a partnership between the district and Corporate Jet Solutions, which is supporting the program. The board is expected to give final approval at its meeting Tuesday.
The idea for the program stems from the community.
Bradley Dye, vice president of Corporate Jet Solutions and one of the driving forces behind the program, says the aviation industry expects a big decline in the number of pilots, mechanics and other aviation workers over the next decade. The industry, he notes, has done a poor job of preparing for the shortfall. He thinks the Hernando schools can train students to help fill the void.
"I think this is a winner," Dye said. "The statistics back it up."
The aerospace technology track will have four one-credit courses — Aerospace Technologies I through III and Advanced Technology Applications, which will be optional. Students are eligible to obtain Federal Aviation Administration ground school certification after completing the third course.
Students will not be flying on the district's time. To earn a private pilot's license, students would have to complete an additional 40 hours of instruction with a certified flight instructor.
Contact Danny Valentine at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.