Newark launches aviation program for Shabazz High School seniors

A passenger plane sits in a hangar awaiting inspection.
Newark Public School leaders announced the launch of a new aviation program set to begin this spring at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. (Bim / Getty Images)

Malcolm X Shabazz High School students will have the chance to enroll in a new aviation program launching as a trial run this spring. 

Newark Public Schools has partnered with the Aviation Institute of Maintenance at Teterboro Airport to give current Shabazz seniors the opportunity to enroll in aviation courses designed to fulfill prerequisites for well-paying jobs as aircraft mechanics and technicians. During Tuesday’s board of education meeting, Superintendent Roger León said the program will launch as a trial run this spring before becoming a full-year program in September. 

The new program is part of León’s goal to revamp traditional high schools and better prepare students for college and careers. In 2019, the district launched an engineering career academy at Shabazz where students earn college credit from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. 

León said the idea is to find “the needs of the world” and “begin to change the academic program to meet those needs.”

The new program comes as the Shabazz school community works on maintaining a peaceful and safe learning environment, improving academic achievement, and addressing years of declining enrollment under multiple district leaders. 

Current seniors who have met their graduation requirements by the second semester this school year can enroll in the aviation program this spring to take four introductory courses. Students who decide to participate will be bussed to and from Teterboro, where the classes will take place. 

They’ll take four general science courses in math and physics; tools, surfaces and corrosion control; maintenance operations and records; and basic electricity. The completed courses fulfill the prerequisites for the airframe and powerplant program, a certification all aircraft mechanics or technicians are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to complete in order to work at a U.S. airport. 

During this week’s board of education meeting, members unanimously voted to award a $560,000 contract to the institute for the aviation courses during the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years with the option to renew for an additional two years. 

When the program launches as a full-year term in September for seniors, students will take the four general courses along with four courses that lead to certification, according to Havier Nazario, chief of staff for the superintendent. Those students might fulfill all their requirements for their high school degree before completing the aviation program, León said. 

Incoming freshmen can plan their high school schedule in preparation to take the aviation courses their senior year. Nazario said students might be able to take additional high school classes during the year or in the summer to clear their senior schedules. District leaders did not mention if seniors in the spring trial run could take an additional semester of courses.

During the board meeting, León said he would need to revise schedules next year so incoming freshman students could earn their diplomas in three years and spend their fourth year learning at the airport. That would allow students to take the introductory prerequisite courses and the four courses that lead to certification, Nazario said, in four years. Students who graduate in 2027 will have completed a high school diploma and one full year of coursework from the Aviation Institute. 

The district will monitor the program this spring and make modifications as needed, León added. 

Jessie Gomez is a reporter for Chalkbeat Newark, covering public education in the city. Contact Jessie at jgomez@chalkbeat.org.  

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