School’s theme is aviation |

School’s theme is aviation

OAKLAND (AP) – Hangar Five at Oakland International Airport is an unlikely place for a high school, but a charter school opening there this fall will give students on-the-tarmac training for careers as pilots, flight attendants and aircraft mechanics.

The Oakland Aviation High School is leasing office space at the airport for its first few years of life. The school will give students all the classes required for admission to a University of California campus, with a special emphasis on math and English. Teachers will pay visits to students at home to further emphasize core classes.

But the school will also let students take classes toward certifications in the airline industry.

“My educational vision is to create the renaissance thinkers of tomorrow, people who are not only prepared for success in college but also have practical skills they can apply immediately upon graduation,” said school principal Jay Dunlap.

“The aviation track makes a lot of sense in Oakland in particular: there’s a high level of poverty in Oakland, and a lot of under-serving schools, although there has also been a lot of positive change there,” Dunlap said. “A lot of students are not prepared for college nor looking at college as an option.”

With its dearth of skilled workers, the Oakland airport must also import employees from other regions – a situation the new school could help turn around, he said.

Oakland Aviation will be one of only a handful of such schools tailored to careers and furthering education in the airline industry. Program director Leah Casey said she knew of only two others in the nation, one in New York, the other in Seattle.

It is also part of a mushrooming charter-school movement in California.

There are 574 charter schools operating in the state, with 212,000 students, according to the California Charter Schools Association. They are independent public schools that are permitted to be more innovative in how they deliver education, and held accountable by local districts for student achievement.

About 30 of these charter schools are “specialty” campuses that prepare graduates for specific careers, pointing them toward either further education or entry into the work force.

Students at Oakland Aviation will be permitted to take classes at the College of Alameda, a partner of the new high school, which offers an aviation technician, or aircraft mechanic, program, Casey said.

The new school will take on about 100 ninth graders this fall, adding another 100 each year over the following three years until it has a full student body, through 12th grade. Students will have a 7 1/2-hour day – an hour longer than most public schools.

The goal is for 25 percent of students to complete the training and testing needed to qualify for Federal Aviation Administration certification as an aviation technician, Casey said.

The remaining students will prepare for other careers in aviation, from flight attendants to pilots to aerospace engineers, she said.

On the Net: Oakland Aviation High School:

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