MONTE VISTA - During the last regularly scheduled Sargent school board meeting, Jay Sarason came to present information about the possibility of starting an aviation program for the school. Sarason has a passion for aviation and works part-time at the Del Norte airport. “When I started flying, I just wanted to be a selfish flying hog, and just fly around. Then I found out how much I enjoy taking people flying. Especially kids. That evolved into wanting to expand this program of teaching kids and helping kids get into aviation,” said Sarason.
Sarason shared with the board that there is a shortage of pilots, airplane mechanics, and drone pilots, in the United States. “There’s a market there for kids,” Sarason commented.
The program was started by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). The organization is based in Maryland and they started a stem program for high schoolers. If Sargent should choose to do the program it would be stem certified. “In essence it’s a four-year curriculum. It can involve drones, mechanical, or pilot. I’m focusing on the pilot because with the pilot you can also do the drones and you don’t have to separate the programs. With the pilot it’s also fairly easy to transition to the mechanical side. It’s a four-year curriculum, and it’s free to the high school,” said Sarason.
The program would be five days a week for freshmen, sophomore, and junior students. At the end of their junior year, students would be able to take their written examine for a private pilot’s test. “In essence it’s a ground school taught through the high school. The senior year is more of an open field type of orientation,” explained Sarason.
The local aviation community is trying to get the stem program going in the San Luis Valley. They are in the process of trying to build a classroom for the programs in Del Norte. “We want to have a place for the seniors to come sit down and study. Then be able to go outside, get in planes and work on planes,” said Sarason. He told the board that the aviation community is very excited about this. Many pilots have told him they’d love to help with the program if they can.
Sargent is interested in getting the program started but it will probably not be until next Fall semester. They would have to apply as a school in February to the AOPA who would send them all the materials. The class would be taught by a teacher in the school who downloads the program onto a laptop. There would also be some hands-on projects, building projects, and field trips. Pilots from the Valley and outside the Valley could also come in and help. “You don’t have to be a pilot. Any teacher can teach the class. We can take anyone, give them the program and have a blast in the class because it’s fun,” Sarason commented.
Sargent high school took a poll to see how many of their high school students would be interested in earning their pilot license. The responses they got back showed that many students would be interested in the program.
The school board is excited to explore the possibility of offering this program at their school. The suggestion was made that they might even start by adding simple aviation classes as part of their Friday life skills classes.