Etowah School Board Approves Aviation Technology Agreement

Etowah County Schools now is in the airplane business.

The county Board of Education late Tuesday approved an agreement with the Alabama Aviation Center in Albertville to begin a dual enrollment program in airframe technology at the Etowah County Career Technical Center, beginning in January.

Dan Owen is director of the Aviation Center, which is a unit of at Enterprise State Community College. He said the college has programs with schools in Albertville, Boaz, Guntersville and Sardis, but the Etowah County program would be unique because classes would be taught at the tech center campus in Attalla.

There are nine courses in the airframe technology program, Owen said, which focuses on aircraft structure and systems. The program would be open to students in grades 10 to 12, and one course would be offered each semester.

“I think it’s a very positive program for our school system to be able to partner with Enterprise State’s aviation program,” said Superintendent Alan Cosby. “It will offer our students some great opportunities in a field that’s in demand.”

Owen said jobs in aircraft technology will be in the high-paying, high-demand category for the next 25 years, specifically citing Airbus and its planned $600 million airplane assembly plant in Mobile.

Tuition for the high school students — listed as $166 per semester hour on the college website — would be paid by Workforce Development Program funds, Owen said.

Students would be required to have a 2.5 grade point average and to have taken Alegbra I. Owen said because students will be dual-enrolled in the college, they must take the Compass college placement exam and fill out admissions paperwork.

Mark Stancil, director of the Etowah County Career Technical Center, said nine students already have expressed interest in the program, and he expects more to be interested.

Summer Collins, counselor at the tech center, said the program as of now will only be open to students in Etowah County Schools.

Stancil said he would be visiting with high schools and plans a meeting for students and parents before Christmas to discuss the program in detail.

Owen said a student theoretically could complete courses through dual enrollment and finish the program by the time he or she graduates from high school. He said students would have to take classes in the summer, which also would be covered by the workforce development funds.

“I have one high school student will graduate in May who will have completed the entire program in high school,” he said. “It’s very doable. It’s just a matter of (whether) the student wants to give up their summer.”

Melissa Shields, curriculum and continuous improvement director, said the program meets all dual enrollment credits. “The confines meet beautifully with our existing program,” she told the board.

Owen said he’s confident the classes will be ready to begin Jan. 7.

They will be held at the tech center. Owen said there are plans for some of the more advanced, hands-on courses to be held at the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport, but he has no commitments from airport officials at present.

“By the time we really get into that part of the program, we’ll be talking with the airport managers, who are there to see about leasing space or things like that,” he said. “But that’s much further in long-range planning.”

By Kendra Carter
Times Staff Writer