Area high school students will have the opportunity to learn the basics of aviation next school year, according to Rob Lech, superintendent of the Jamestown Public School District.

"It is a great opportunity that has been talked about in Jamestown for a number of years," he said. "It seems now is the time to move forward."

Aviation and drone classes will be available to Jamestown High School students as well as students from area schools who utilize the James Valley Career and Technology Center.

The new classes were among three approved unanimously by the Jamestown Public School Board at its Monday meeting. In addition to aviation, an introduction to drones and drone technology and lifeguard and water safety classes will be added.

The water safety classes will be offered in a cooperative effort with Two Rivers Activity Center. The program's stated objective is to provide more certified lifeguards to alleviate shortages in the area.

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The aviation class, taught over two semesters, and the drone class, also presented over two semesters, will be taught in alternating years with the aviation class planned for the 2021 through 2022 school year. Water safety classes are planned for every school year.

Plans for the aviation class include the purchase of 11 flight simulators at a cost of about $150,000. The school would purchase five drones for about $5,000 and an additional $10,000 for computer software to utilize some of the aviation flight simulators for drone instruction.

"Our plan is to use CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security) Act for the startup equipment," Lech said.

Plans also call for hiring a new instructor for the aviation and drone classes. Lech said that cost will partly be covered by state funding provided to the Career and Technology Center. The school is also seeking other organizations that may wish to offer drone or aviation instructions to help share the costs.

One of the simulators is a "full-motion simulator" that could be used by students and licensed pilots for training.

"There is a benefit to our students but also to the community," Lech said.

The Career and Technology Center polled students in the 8th through 11th grade in Jamestown, Pingree-Buchanan, Montpelier and Medina about their interest in aviation classes. About 10% said they would take the class and another 50% said they would want more information about the class. About 14% of the students said they would enroll in a drone course.

Lech said the aviation course could be of interest to students with interests in recreational or business aviation. Drone technology is utilized by many industries including agriculture.

"There are great job opportunities in drone technology and aviation moving forward," he said.

Lech said aviation and drone classes are usually only taught in the larger schools around North Dakota.

"I don't think there are a lot of programs in schools smaller than Jamestown," he said.