Dayton schools launch firefighter career tech program at Belmont

Dayton Public Schools continued its expansion of career tech programs Wednesday, announcing creation of a firefighter-emergency medical technician program at Belmont High School starting this fall.

Courses eventually will be taught to freshmen through seniors by Dayton Fire Department instructors, and students will have the opportunity to take state certification tests while still in high school. Graduates could enter the workforce as emergency medical technicians or continue their education in Sinclair’s Fire Academy program.

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“This program will provide career opportunities immediately out of high school for our students, as well as recruits for our city,” DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said.

The new program is an extension of the City of Dayton Homegrown Heroes initiative that seeks to increase the number of women and minorities in the city’s safety forces.

Lolli said the program will be structured with a four-year approach, starting with up to 20 freshmen and 20 sophomores this fall. By the third year, the program should have students from freshmen through seniors. Lolli said state career tech funding will pay for the program.

Dayton Fire Chief Jeff Payne said students could earn statewide certification through the program, but he emphasized that the city’s goal is to hire them in Dayton.

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“For the city of Dayton, it meets a really important goal … to diversify our first responder membership,” City Manager Shelley Dickstein said, calling the program “a sustainable path to having a more diverse firefighter membership serving our Dayton citizens.”

Dickstein said the city and school district have been talking about career tech partnerships for over a year.

DPS has one formal career tech high school at Ponitz, where students can take two-year career preparation programs in digital design, culinary arts, automotive technology, dental assisting and eight other programs.

But in the past two years, the district has added some smaller CTC pathways at other high schools — allied health at Dunbar, biotechnology at Thurgood, computer science at Belmont, business administration at Meadowdale and photography/media at Stivers.

Dayton’s firefighter/EMT program follows on the heels of Kettering’s Fairmont High School, which launched its Fire Science program in 2017. Payne said Belmont students will take courses on Homeland Security basics as well as emergency medicine and fire protection. With Dayton’s Fire Company 15 right next to Belmont’s campus, Payne said students will get a hands-on approach, including responding on fire and EMS runs.

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“This program is going to provide us an opportunity to bring in folks, who when they graduate, will be an EMT and could potentially be a Level 2 Firefighter,” Payne said. “To become a Dayton city employee, the next time we have a (civil service) exam, they’ll be placed on a promotional list, which has priority.”

Career tech education programs in general are seeing a resurgence. Fairmont will break ground next month on a new building to add two CTE programs and expand a third. The Miami Valley Career Technology Center is in the midst of a major expansion to add capacity, and the Greene County Career Center is building a new, larger facility on U.S. 35 that will house more programs.

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