DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A specialized aircraft maintenance program in Des Moines for area high school students is in jeopardy because of issues over the space used to teach it, said parents and others petitioning an airport board's decision to move its instruction into a smaller area.
The 29,500-square-foot facility at Des Moines International Airport has provided students in the aviation engineering technology program the opportunity to learn about aircraft maintenance for the past 40 years, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/1bVQ3XI ). A lease on the space expires at the end of June, and the Airport Authority Board has refused to renew the lease on the space.
Instead, the school board and authority have agreed to move students to a nearby hangar that's about one-fourth the size of the current structure.
Parents and others are petitioning the move and want to keep the students in the current facility. They argue that the switch would cost more money and reduce student participation. It would also threaten funding because it may revoke the program's federal certification, said supporters.
"It's really a blessing to have this program in our community," said parent Lyrio Read, who began the petition. "Moving them out of their building is just going to hurt the students."
The Federal Aviation Administration certification to teach aircraft maintenance is available only at three school districts in the country, including Des Moines. Between 40 and 70 students enroll in the Des Moines program annually. Students can earn college credit or professional certifications.
Airport spokesman Kevin Foley said the current facility is in an area with potential for corporate development.
"What we've got is some corporate demand for space for corporate aircraft, which generate jobs and boost the economy of the metro area," he said. "That is actually one of the only locations that we have to accommodate (those requests)."
Parents plan to present their petition to the airport board and school board. The airport board is scheduled to meet Feb. 11 to review airport properties and suggestions for their use.
School officials want students to stay in the current space through the 2014-2015 school year because there's not enough time to find a replacement space before the new school year starts, said Des Moines Superintendent Thomas Ahart.
"We do hope to have discussions with the airport authority to see if there's any way to eke out one more year to give us enough time to have a suitable facility off the airport," he said.
The current facility, built in 1974, houses about a dozen aircraft. It was paid for with a school tax levy and was recently appraised at just under $1 million.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com