Since December, Wayne County Public Schools leadership has been working with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base leadership, with the support of Wayne County’s Board of Education and Board of Commissioners, to explore and develop a potential new public school located on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. On Monday evening, WCPS interim superintendent, Dr. David Lewis updated the Board of Education and was granted approval by the Board to officially establish the Wayne School of Technical Arts on the campus of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
“When the conversation began between Dr. James Merrill (Former WCPS Interim Superintendent) and Col. Kurt Helphinstine (4th Fighter Wing Commander) last fall, everyone involved in the planning discussions to follow realized Wayne County was on the cusp on something very exciting, “ states Dr. David Lewis, WCPS Interim Superintendent. “Families and employers are hungry for our district to offer more innovative school program options like the Wayne School of Engineering and the Wayne Early/Middle College High School. The Wayne School of Technical Arts will do just that for students and families across the district.”
The Wayne School of Technical Arts will be housed in the SJAFB Education Center and will open in Fall of 2022. Once at capacity, it will serve approximately 420 military and non-military connected students in grades 6-12. In addition to AP Capstone and STEM offerings, the school plans to offer exciting and engaging programs such as Digital Design and Animation, Game Art Design, and Drone Technology. It will also have the unique distinction of being the only public school in North Carolina located on a military installation and among only a small number of schools nationwide to hold this distinction.
“We sincerely believe that this program will offer many engaging course pathways and extracurricular opportunities for students,” adds Dr. Marcia Manning, assistant superintendent for Students Services & Innovative Programs.
Like Wayne School of Engineering and the Wayne Early/Middle College High School, interested students will have to apply and be selected through a lottery system. Slots will also be made available for home school and other non-WCPS students who are interested in the school’s unique curriculum and offerings.
“The 4th Fighter Wing is committed to work with Wayne County Public Schools and supporting enhanced educational experiences for all students in our local community”, said Col. Kurt Helphinstine, 4th Fighter Wing Commander. “The focused integration of partnership opportunities with our local community will improve family quality of life and Airmen retention while strengthening our ties with the Wayne County Public School system. It will provide an additional path for all Wayne County middle and high school students to achieve an advanced level or proficiency as they matriculate to higher education, the workforce, or other professional careers.”
As next steps, the district will utilize the 2021-2022 school year as a formal planning year for populating, staffing and equipping the school. The district will also need to finalize a lease agreement with the Base, as well as develop a budget and identify funding sources as needed.