Starting next school year, Williams High School students can start training for a career in the medical field through a new Certified Nursing Assistant Program (CNA).
The two-year program would earn students five credit hours at Coconino Community College plus industry certification, said Williams High School Principal Tristan Heisley.
"They'll have a CNA certificate so they can walk right out the door and go get a job in Flagstaff or anywhere else that hires CNAs, which is awesome," Heisley said.
Staff conducted a survey last year of which courses students would like the high school to offer, and nursing was one of the top choices with more than 35 interested students.
A registered nurse with at least two years of elder care experience will teach the course. The program will include a medical terminology class and a CNA class. Heisley also hopes to start offering an anatomy and physiology course next year, which would be optional but recommended for CNA students.
Students would also have to complete 40 hours of clinicals in the second year of the program with 20 of those hours in a long-term care facility.
At their Nov. 13 meeting, Williams Unified School District (WUSD) Governing Board members approved the employment of a consultant to complete the paperwork and set up the lab for the CNA program. The consultant, Michelle Merolla, helped Page Unified School District set up its nursing program and has also taught a CNA course in the past.
Like all Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses, the district would pay for the program in its first year. After the first year, the Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology would pay for the program.
As for equipment for the CNA program, North Country HealthCare donated a $2,000 hospital bed to the program. Banner Health in Phoenix is also donating materials such as stethoscopes.
District staff is considering offering the program on Fridays next year, since the regular school week goes from Monday through Thursday.
"It would not interrupt any kind of core classes whatsoever," Heisley said. "One of the problems we have with CTE right now is every single CTE class is opposite of a core class and it takes a lot of those kids that want to be in there out of it."
Offering the class one day each week might also make it easier to find an instructor, since the position will be part time, said WUSD Superintendent Rachel Savage.
"Not only that but it will also provide an engagement opportunity for a number of our students on Fridays," Savage said.
The class would most likely be from 8 to 11 a.m. or 8 a.m. to noon on Friday mornings.
Governing Board President David Nenne asked about the possibility of students from other schools as well as home-schooled students participating in the program.
Heisley said offering the course on Fridays would allow students from Ash Fork, Grand Canyon and Seligman to participate. He added that the program might be so popular with Williams students in its first year that there might not be enough room for students from other schools.
"I've been talking to the sophomores and freshmen about it and quite a few of them are interested in going into some kind of medical job, and this is a great thing to be able to have when you go to college," Heisley said.
The maximum class size for the CNA program would be 20 students. If a larger number of students signed up, the school would consider offering a morning section and an afternoon section.
The CNA program could possibly use the current art room as its lab, since the class requires the use of sinks. The classroom that formerly housed the industrial arts program could become the CNA classroom.
Savage said the CNA course would have several benefits for students.
"I just love the idea of providing more opportunities for 21st century skills, for college credits, for on the job type trainings," she said. "For a lot of these kids it might inspire them to take this further and for some they might realize it's not what they want to do. There are a lot of good things that can come out of this."