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2013 January 21 - 12:00 am

Aviation Advocates Scramble To Halt Closure of LA School

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 41-year-old aviation mechanics training school near a suburban Los Angeles airport is slated to be closed or relocated if the Los Angeles Unified School District cannot find the funds to keep the program going.

The possible shutdown of North Valley Occupational Center-Aviation Center, housed in a Van Nuys Airport hangar, has sparked an outcry from local aviation industry officials who say aircraft mechanics are hard to find, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The school offers GED and high school diploma classes, along with a two-year program that trains students for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration.

A number of industry officials have written letters to district Superintendent John Deasy, asking him to keep the nationally recognized center open and at its current location, where students work on jet engines and are surrounded by aircraft and airplane parts.

“This is a huge asset to the city,” said Curt Castagna, president of the Van Nuys Airport Association. “A couple hundred students from the school have been hired at the airport. These are good-paying jobs, and they have provided economic value locally and to the industry.”

About 100 students attend the school per semester, paying a total cost of tuition of $2,400, much lower than private technical colleges.

Center Principal Carlynn Huddleston said budget woes have already caused the school to cancel evening classes and cut staff. Rent at the hangar is $12,000 a month.

The program could be combined with another occupational center campus, but it would be far from ideal, Huddleston said. “We would be squeezed into some rooms,” Huddleston told the Times. “There is no hangar. The program would become second rate.”

Huddleston said she wants to renegotiate the rent with Los Angeles World Airport, which operates Van Nuys Airport.

Airport spokeswoman Diana Sanchez said the airport would be willing to work with the center.

Students said demand is high for aircraft mechanics.

“Closing the school doesn’t make sense when so many people are looking to hire fresh air-frame and power plant mechanics,” student Matthew Dods said.

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