Austin Barbour timed his students with a stopwatch as three at a time tried to put on a slew of fireman’s equipment in under two minutes.
“One minute,” Barbour yelled as time went by.
One student was nearly fully dressed, while the other two lagged behind.
Two minutes is the average amount of time it should take a firefighter to put on all of his gear before responding to a fire. Every second counts, Barbour, a second-year teacher at Garner Magnet High, told his students.
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Next year, even more students could be learning that lesson.
The Wake County Public School System announced that it will offer an academy at Garner Magnet High, specifically designed for fire and safety for the 2015-16 school year. Meanwhile, Knightdale has started its public safety academy this year.
It allows students interested in the profession to take career-themed courses integrated into their curriculum. Students get to apply what they learned through projects and field trips.
“Student learn best when they apply their academics,” said Career and Technical Education Director David Wehbie. “It answers the age-old question, ‘Why do I need to know this?’”
Wehbie said that all students can apply and 70 students per grade level can enter the academy. However, if it reaches its maximum capacity of applications, students will have to enter a lottery.
Knightdale has had Academy of Environmental Studies for five years. The public safety academy is its second one.
“It gives them a chance to experience what life is like in the workforce while they’re still in school,” said Geof Duncan, the career academy and career development coordinator at Knightdale High. “We found that these kids are better prepared for the workforce. It’s kind of like preparing students for that (college) major in high school.”
Wehbie agreed. He said students tend to score better academically as well. Students who enter career academies in WCPSS have a 100 percent graduation rate, according to district numbers. That compares to 82.2 percent in the district as a whole.
“We’ve been trying to grow them, because it gives another tool in the toolbox for their interests and it helps improve their student performance,” Wehbie said.
For Garner Magnet High, fire and safety are currently offered, but next year the academy will expand the courses. For instance, English or history teachers will integrate fire and safety – as it relates to their subject – into their curriculum.
Barbour, also a volunteer fire fighter at Pine Level Fire Department in Johnston County, taught his students about the equipment a firefighter uses. They learned how to pry open doors with a halligan bar. He said 160 students are currently enrolled in the school’s fire and safety and public safety courses, but next year is expected to add 100 more.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing once we get it in place,” Barbour said. “Students get a chance to come out of high school fully certified to be a firefighter or EMT.”
When they graduate, those who are certified are immediately eligible for jobs in those professions, he said.