Clearwater High School is opening an aviation academy that will allow students to graduate with a pilot's license.
The Clearwater Aeronautical Space Academy -- or CASA-- will have a soft launch in January, with a class about unmanned aircraft. The full program, with classes in engineering, space flight and aeronautical science, will be available during the 2014-15 school year.
The program is offered through a partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
"We're really excited," principal Keith Mastorides told the Tampa Bay Times (http://bit.ly/1j07Z9Q ).
Any student at Clearwater High can enroll in the academy. They can earn the pilot's license and up to 30 college credits by the time they graduate.
Pinellas School District spokeswoman Lisa Wolf told the newspaper that administrators had been seeking a partnership with the university for several years. They were having trouble selecting a school because they couldn't find a certified teacher to teach aviation.
But Clearwater High's JROTC instructor is a certified pilot and volunteered to teach a class of aviation and aerospace.
"It's a new way of thinking," Mastorides said, adding that students can get certification and earn college credits. Three of the proposed classes are high school level. The others are college-level, dual-enrollment courses.
Embry-Riddle already has a presence in several school districts, including Charlotte, Palm Beach and Okaloosa. The university also is opening a similar program at Pasco County's Sunlake High School in January.
Mastorides said the number of seats and classes offered will be determined by level of interest. So far, there has been "a ton of interest," he said.
Pinellas County school district officials also are considering adding an aerospace component to the middle schools that feed into Clearwater High School -- Oak Grove and Clearwater Fundamental. It would give younger students a jump on the program before they reach high school, the principal said.
Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.