A drone class may be coming to Newton High School as early as next year.
The class will focus on principles of flight in fixed-wing and multi-rotor unmanned aerial systems (UAV/UAS) to gain experience in flying commercial unmanned aerial systems for infrastructure inspection, construction services, civil engineering, aerospace integration and video production. Successful students will be prepared to pass the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot in Command Certificate Exam.
If the program takes flight, it would be one of the first high-school programs in the state.
"I have not been able to find another school doing this," said Blake Smith, assistant principal. "That does not mean there isn't one, but I have not been able to find one."
It was initially proposed to be part of the Comprehensive Ag Pathway for students in their junior or senior year. What was learned after a review at the state level is that the class would not fall under a pathway under Career and Technical Education. That means that Perkins funds, currently used to fund CTE classes, cannot be used for the program.
Smith said that while that was a setback, it did not stop organizers from placing the class in the next course catalog which was up for approval at Monday's Board of Education meeting.
"We had to start thinking about how to make this happen," Smith said.
Educators reached out to a community member, who spent one day fundraising. In that day, $550 was raised for the purchase of drones.
Full costs are estimated at $3,000.
"Like anything else, this will be an ongoing expense that we will need to budget for," said superintendent Deborah Hamm. "This is an abnormal way to add a new course. We typically limit fundraising to classes that have fundraising as part of its core curriculum."
The class will be limited to 16 students and one section for the first year.
"I think you have hit on something here that will help students," said board member Matt Treaster. "My guess is that in a couple of years, 16 spots will not be enough."
"We would build it up over time," Smith said.
A grant has been applied for, after being denied a year ago.
"The only hesitancy I would have is committing some unknown person to fundraise over time," said board member Toby Tyner.
The board approved the course, contingent on funding. It was approved as part of board action to approve new courses in the course catalog.
In other business, the board:
• Heard a complaint from a parent who was denied access to his daughter's classroom at Newton High School. He requested a copy of policies about visits by parents. Hamm stated she would have copies available for him by Wednesday.
• Recognized outgoing board members for their service: Carol Sue Stayrook Hobbs, 16 years of service; Steve Richards, four years of service; and Allen Jantz, two years of service.
• Heard a report on the Y Scholars program. Last spring, district administration began conversations with the YMCA regarding the possibility of a Summer Y Scholars program. During the Summer of 2019, 23 students (entering second and third grade in fall 2019) participated in a 6-week, 5 days a week, program that focused on literacy and STEM activities. Students were recruited based on teacher recommendation. The program was free of charge to parents.
• Heard a report on school security and recommendations for improving security of school buildings.
• Changed board policy on lunch charges to allow students to charge up to five lunches.
• Discussed the next capital outlay budget. The board looked at options including a capital outlay bond, lease to purchase agreements and an increase of the local option budget tax. In January, the Board of Education will receive the full recommendations for Capital Outlay Expenditures.