EAST SPENCER — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education unanimously approved a public service academy Monday at South Rowan High School.
Initially, the academy will offer one focus area — fire services training — but the school plans to include EMS and police training once the state releases a curriculum for each of them.
“South Rowan High School would like to become a high school that is shaping tomorrow’s heroes,” said Principal Don Knox in a presentation to the board. “This is something we have been thinking about for well over a year.”
During the first year, the academy will be available only to juniors and seniors at South Rowan as a pilot program. The following year, it will open up to all students at South and transfer students from other areas of the county.
Through a partnership with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, students will earn 18 credits toward an associate’s degree and prepare for certification as firefighters.
“This will be the only program in the state where we are combining an academy approach with getting credits toward an Associate of Arts degree,” Knox said.
Students would not begin the fire service courses until their junior year, but Knox said earlier classes would find ways to tie in.
For example, he said, students taking physical education could train with donated fire gear in addition to taking part in normal gym activities.
“South Salisbury Fire Department has already committed and said they would help with turnout gear and the equipment they would need,” Knox said.
The Town of Landis will be donating money and equipment to help bring a fire training tower up to code, he said, and the town of China Grove is also offering support.
Knox said the cost to Rowan-Salisbury will be minimal. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will be hiring a program coordinator who will work 25 hours per week, and the college will also provide certified instructors for the courses.
Students will also have the chance to participate in internships at fire houses.
“They’ll be getting alongside people that know this business, and they can really get a sense of if this is something they really want to do,” Knox said.
Existing academies include science and math at Salisbury High School, agriculture at West Rowan, fine arts at Jesse C. Carson and JROTC at South Rowan. A business and marketing academy at East Rowan High School was just approved by the board in March.