Boynton Beach High School’s fledgling aerospace academy is spreading its wings, with plans for a multimillion-dollar project at a nearby airport that will train students for high-paying jobs fixing aircraft.
What’s more, the plan for a new $2 million facility at the Palm Beach County Park Airport in Lantana would also attract adult night-school students who themselves are seeking better jobs and pay for their classes. This, Palm Beach County School District officials hope, will help pay the costs for students such as Nicholas Powell.
“The things I could do with … this are exactly what I want to be doing,” said Powell, 17, a junior who rides a bus more than an hour each way from Royal Palm Beach to attend the Boynton Aerospace Science Academy.
The program hopes to receive federal approval by the end of the school year to offer graduating students the “air frame” maintenance industry certification needed to be an aircraft-body mechanic, said Paul Hershorin, the magnet program’s director.
Hershorin, who is also an assistant professor at Daytona Beach-based Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, said the nonprofit foundation that supports the aerospace academy — the BASA Aeronautical School Inc. — is completing the deal on the Lantana airport facility.
The facility, which likely won’t be open for at least two years, will be used to teach students how to repair jet engines and give graduates the “power plant” certification needed to be aircraft-engine mechanics.
Hershorin said the academy’s air-frame and engine-maintenance programs will be bolstered by opening them to adults for classes in the evenings — and possibly during the day — to earn their aircraft mechanic certifications.
He did not know how much adults would be charged, but said costs at aerospace colleges in Florida that offer mechanics classes range from $15,000 to $30,000 for certification programs. Boynton Beach High’s adult classes would probably be at the lower end of that range, he said.
Randy Lanier, a 2011 aerospace academy graduate who grew up near the Lantana airport, said after high school he racked up $42,000 in student loans getting his jet-engine mechanic certification at Embry Riddle Aeronautical’s Daytona Beach campus. Embry-Riddle is the school district’s partner in the aerospace academy.
“That would have been great if they had that when I was there, because it would have been a lot cheaper,” said Lanier, who makes $16 an hour working for a Jacksonville company that fixes plane engines for Delta Airlines and FedEx Corp.
Some career academies allow graduates to continue through adult education in programs such as internships, said Pete Licata, the district’s choice and career options director. But the aerospace academy would be the county’s first high school magnet that allows adults to pay to take the same classes at night and get the same industry certification earned by the high-school students.
The academy, which started in 2007 with 23 students, now has 147 with 27 graduating seniors, Hershorin said.
The fees paid by adults to take night classes hopefully will be enough to help pay the district’s costs to provide the academy to the teens during the day and eventually make both programs self-sufficient, said Karen Whetsell, Boynton Beach High’s principal.
The engine maintenance program at the Lantana airport will come too late for students such as Stephanie Davis. But the 17-year-old graduating senior plans to attend Palm Beach State College and return to take the engine-maintenance classes as an adult student.
“I originally hated flying and didn’t want a single thing to do with planes,” Davis said. “But I enjoy the mechanics, and I’ve always enjoyed taking stuff apart and putting it back together.”