Sunday, March 09, 2014

Aviation charter school set to land near Detroit Metropolitan Airport

A grass-roots organization in Taylor is preparing to launch a middle school for 235 students near Detroit Metropolitan Airport that will emphasize a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum based on the aviation and aerospace industries.

If the proposed Taylor Academy of Aviation and Aerospace -- or TA3 for short -- grows as expected, the school most likely will expand into high school grades -- similar to West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids, said Lorilyn Coggins, president of American Charter Education Services Inc. in Fenton.

"We really do want to replicate what they're doing in curriculum and program activities," Coggins said.

Coggins said she has been working with Detroit-area supporters for the past 18 months to launch the academy, proposed to be built on a 2.5-acre vacant and improved parcel owned by businessman Djamel Tiguert near the southwest corner of Goddard and Telegraph roads.

"This project is ready to go for 2014 opening," said Coggins, who has been involved in the formation of 10 charter schools during the past 19 years. "If we have a green light by first of April, the modular classrooms could be in place and installed in time for a fall 2014 opening."

The academy would be using two modular buildings similar to the units used for The Dearborn Academy in Dearborn.

The school, which would employ about 15 full- and part-time staff members initially, is less than three miles from Metro Airport in Romulus.

Metro could serve as a training opportunity for field trips, Coggins said. In addition, school organizers envision the construction of a civilian airstrip for the academy in Belleville that students could use as the program grows.

The group -- made up of Tiguert, businesspeople from Taylor and two aircraft pilots -- has asked Bay Mills Community College in the Upper Peninsula town of Brimley to issue a charter to form TA3.

If it issues a charter, the college would appoint a board of Taylor-area residents to oversee administration of the academy and enter into contracts to launch the school.

Bay Mills is also the authorizer for West Michigan Aviation Academy. "We are hoping since they authorized West Michigan, we can have our foot in the door, since we are replicating one of their existing schools," Coggins said.

The Taylor group already has cleared some hurdles. It received a federal planning grant from the Michigan Department of Education to create the academy, and it will be eligible for two years of federal implementation grant money administered by the state.

That money can be used for expenses such as educational furniture and books, provided the school receives a charter.

Coggins said the group already has proposed arrangements with the company that would lease the modular classrooms and a company that would become the employer of record to fund salaries for the school's staff until state per-pupil payments could be made after October.

Coggins' company, established in 2009, would act as the back-office support to help the school meet its reporting requirements to the board and perform professional development of staff.

"We learned a little bit by what West Michigan did," said Coggins, who has visited WMAA with members of the Taylor group.

"They opened with a ninth grade, and it's a little more difficult if you bring in ninth-graders and you haven't trained them up. So we are going to open with grades six through eight to instill in the kids the motivation to be the best that they can be."

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