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Date last updated: Wednesday, June 8, 14:11 PST

Pa. high school plans firefighting course

By Melody Asper
The Evening Sun

NEW OXFORD, Pa. — While area students celebrate the end of this school year, the Conewago Valley School District already is deep into plans for a much anticipated firefighting course officials hope to launch in January.

New Oxford High School plans to offer "Orientation to Fire Service" beginning in January to students in grades 10 through 12 who are at least 16 years of age, high school Principal Mike O'Brien said.

Nine students already have enrolled in the class, and a total of 12 to 15 students must enroll in order for officials to move forward with a January launch.

The new course, which will be hosted by New Oxford High School during regular school hours, is being offered by Harrisburg Area Community College. The parent or participating student is financially responsible to pay $350 to attend the class, which O'Brien said is the average cost for any college-related class at the high school.

However, if a New Oxford student is an active volunteer at United Hook and Ladder Co. No. 33, the cost for the class will be paid by either the fire company or a participating local business, United Fire Chief Steve Rabine said.

For example, Tim-Bar Corp. has agreed to sponsor up to five active youth members from United, Rabine said.

In order to be considered an active fire department member, each student must help with United fundraisers such as the carnival, said Rabine, or with other non-emergency duties around the fire department.

The firefighting course was suggested by United Hook and Ladder, and Rabine said that he and representatives from HACC met with Conewago Valley School District officials three to four times within the last few months to work out specifics for the course. United No. 33 has agreed to allow the students to use the department's turnout gear for hands-on classes.

"We are really excited to see this class become a reality," Rabine said. "For the students this class could possibly be a building block to a career in emergency response or as a professional firefighter." said Rabine.

He also noted the course could serve as a recruitment tool for volunteer companies, which is important he said, since the number of firefighters statewide has dropped by 66 percent since 1985.

Students successfully finishing the 67 ? -hour course will receive elective credit on their high-school transcript, said O'Brien, and will also receive a certificate from Harrisburg Area Community College.

For the coming year, there will be no college credits attached to the course, said O'Brien, but the district is hoping that the course can eventually evolve into a college credit such as other Advanced Placement "college in the high school" courses presently offered at New Oxford.

If the course is as successful as anticipated, said O'Brien, there may be more emergency services courses offered in the future.

"We have discussed looking at beginning an Emergency Management Technician type course later if this goes well," said O'Brien.

While New Oxford High School students are the only ones who can sign up for the January class, Rabine said area fire departments have been discussing wider participation at some point in time.

"This is a stepping stone. There is talk of possibly having a countywide EMT program for high-school students at HACC in Gettysburg," said Rabine. "It's all really up to the students and their parents. We need to see how much interest is out there."

Any New Oxford High School student or parent wanting more information should contact the guidance office at (717) 624-2157, or go to the high-school office at 130 Berlin Road, New Oxford.

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