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Blue Valley Schools, Overland Park Fire Department create new fire science program

OPFD training.jpg
Posted at 5:39 AM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 06:58:33-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — High school students in the Blue Valley School District can now earn the necessary certificates to become a firefighter while in high school.

The school district partnered with Overland Park Fire Department this semester to offer a fire science career-ready program.

The free program allows juniors and seniors to spend every afternoon at Overland Park’s fire training center near 124th Street and Antioch Road. At the professional facility, students work with firefighters to learn the ins and outs of firefighting.

Along the way, students can earn college credit for the coursework through Johnson County Community College. After two years in the program, students will be prepared to pass certification exams making them eligible for hiring as they graduate high school.

“It feels more like you’re a giant family instead of just being a bunch of students,” Blue Valley West High School student Ben Seitz said after a few months in the program.

He’s one of 15 students in the inaugural class.

The class includes Blue Valley Northwest High School student Jenni Clarkson, who said she wanted to become a firefighter-EMT after witnessing a person faint at a restaurant and feeling an urge to help. The past three months in the program have reassured her of that path.

“And I do want to become a fire-medic here at OPFD,” she said confidently.

Overland Park hopes the program produces new firefighters. Veterans are retiring and the list of applicants is getting smaller. This partnership creates a “grown your own” kind of pipeline for the department.

“Kids essentially have an opportunity to enter the workforce immediately with certifications. We are just a reflection of that movement. It’s definitely helping us be more localized in who we are looking to hire,” OPFD Training Officer Andrew Bobka pointed out.

The program is mutually beneficial. In exchange for teaching the class, Overland Park received land on the campus of Blue Valley Southwest High School to build a fire station. The new station is set to open Monday, Nov. 29, on 175th Street, west of Quivira Road.

In Johnson County, the Shawnee Mission, Olathe, and Gardner-Edgerton school districts have similar fire science career programs. Each with its own unique approach.

In Wyandotte County, the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department partners with colleges and has its own EMT and paramedic trainee programs where participants can earn a salary while they learn and then are required to join the KCKFD Fire Academy. Current paramedics can earn a $5,000 signing bonus to work with KCKFD.