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Wichita Public Schools Proposes First High School Aviation Pathway In Kansas

Wichita Public Schools
Alicia Thompson, superintendent at Wichita Public Schools, speaks about Aviation Pathway in a Textron Aviation hanger.

Wichita Public Schools on Monday proposed a new high school aviation curriculum, with the goal of getting students ready to work in the aviation industry immediately after graduation.

The specialized curriculum, called Aviation Pathway, will be the first high school program of its kind in the state if approved by the Kansas State Department of Education.

“This is long overdue,” said Randy Watson, Kansas’ education commissioner. “Finally in the Air Capital city, we have a pathway that helps every student that wants to help lead the world in aviation stay right here at home and do that."

The district is partnering with Textron Aviation and WSU Tech on the project. The partners said the program is needed due to a retiring workforce and a low unemployment rate. Growth in the manufacturing sector and fewer students choosing manufacturing careers are other factors.

“The engineering that I do on a daily basis is complicated stuff and we need people that know their stuff to be able to put that together and get it out the door,” said Ben Blankley, an engineer at Spirit and a member of Wichita’s Board of Education.

High school graduates can already apply for starting jobs in the aviation industry without taking a specialized curriculum, but Blankley said most students would need at least some technical college training without Aviation Pathway.

Jim Walters, senior vice president of human resources at Textron Aviation, said the new curriculum and the possible credential students could earn would give them an advantage when applying.

“It’s a leg up, frankly, on the rest of the labor force,” Walters said.

Under the proposal, students would take classes at their high school and at WSU Tech’s National Center for Aviation Training. There’s also the possibility of senior year internships or shadowing opportunities. The program would have two different paths: aviation production and aviation maintenance.

A curriculum is expected to be finalized over the summer and will need approval from the Kansas State Board of Education. If approved, the program will launch at North, Northwest, Southeast and West High School in the fall. The curriculum would be fully implemented fall 2019 and available for other districts.


Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.