Kate Andrews to offer Fire Academy program

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Palliser Director of Learning Jason Kupery speaks at a media availability on the new fire academy program.

COALDALE – Palliser Regional Schools is hoping its latest course offering will ‘spark’ an interest in students.

Thanks to a partnership with the Town of Coaldale, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and Horizon School Division, Palliser will offer a Fire Academy course for students at Kate Andrews High School starting in the fall.

While the option seems a great way to springboard into a career in emergency services, Director of Learning Jason Kupery says the goal of Palliser’s off-campus programming is more than just connecting students with their passions.

“We also want to make sure our kids are getting out and doing it – learning through hands-on experience and outside the four walls of the classroom – because it only enhances their growth and accelerates their capacity as human beings,” he says.

The first year of the Kate Andrews Fire Academy program will be a dual credit offering with firefighters from Coaldale and District Emergency Services instructing Medical First Responder curriculum supplied by NAIT. Dual credit programs allow students to earn high school and post-secondary credits at the same time – and for little or no cost – during their high school years. A student taking the college course on their own at NAIT would have to pay $1,800.

“Here it basically costs them zero, so it really makes sense for them to do it,” says Kupery, adding the Fire Academy program offers students the opportunity to consider a possible career choice without a lot of risk on their part.

The Kate Andrews Fire Academy program will be offered in training rooms in the soon-to-be expanded Coaldale fire hall. It will run the entire school year with three hours of instruction a week and some longer training days.

The initial class size will likely be limited to between 12 and 18 students to keep the instructor/student ratio favourable. A limited number of seats will be set aside for Horizon students. If KAHS students don’t fill all the remaining seats, enrolment could be expanded to include students from other Palliser schools able to drive to Coaldale.

The second-year of the program will feature material provided by the National Fire Protection Association. Those completing the course will be eligible for entry level firefighting positions. It will be offered as high school Career and Technology credits along with the fire certification.  

Kupery says the idea of a firefighter-related program came up during informal conversations between the Palliser Board of Trustees and Coaldale Town Council on potential partnerships. The idea was to take advantage of local expertise to offer unique courses which might provide students with another reason to stay in Coaldale.

“Without the amount of work done by, and the generosity offered by the Town of Coaldale and the fire chief, this doesn’t go anywhere,” he says.

Along with keeping students enrolled in Coaldale schools, the Fire Academy could also serve as a recruiting tool for Coaldale and District Emergency Services and nearby volunteer fire departments.

Palliser offered its first dual credit course just a year ago. With the addition of the Fire Academy program, it will expand those offerings to nine – with the majority of those in Calgary – and is working on other potential partnerships as well.

Kupery says it is important to create partnerships with are mutually beneficial.

“This will gives us that beta, that foothold, to show how it’s working and create more opportunities for students,” he says.