A program that prepares teens to be volunteer firefighters could be returning to Highlands High School.
The elective course had been offered at the high school for nine years, but stopped two years ago when its instructor left, according to school board President Debbie Beale.
The Highlands Emergency Services Alliance, comprised of eight volunteer fire departments within the school district, is proposing to bring it back starting in the 2019-20 school year. It would be done with the help of the Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation, which would pay for busing students to the class, which would be held at the Allegheny County training center in North Park.
Getting the transportation covered is important, Beale said.
“It’s a great program,” she said, adding that she recommends the school board approve getting the program back in place.
There would not be any cost to the school district, said Pioneer Hose fire Chief Rick Jones, vice president of the alliance. The alliance would pay for handbooks, while the departments would supply the necessary gear, he said. Lunch would also be provided.
High school students in 10th through 12th grades would be eligible. It could be viable with as little as five to 10 students, said Hilltop Hose fire Chief Mike Krzeminski, also an instructor at the county fire academy.
The students would attend the training classes for 14 days spread throughout the school year.
Students would receive entry level training that is approved through the state Fire Academy, Krzeminski said.
Jones said the program has helped the fire departments; his own department has two junior officers who had taken part in the program before.
If approved, as the program moves forward, Krzeminski said it could be possible to add emergency medical technician training in a second year.
Jones said that with the fire academy behind the program this time, if it’s restarted it will not be lost again.
With the numbers of firefighters and EMTs dwindling in the state, Beale said the having the program is a good step.
“I’m very hopeful for this,” Beale said. “I can see it growing.”
The Highlands School Board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the high school library in Natrona Heights.
Brian Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.