By Angela Cunningham
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) — Tuesday will be a big day for a local aviation school that’s soaring to new heights.
West Michigan Aviation Academy, in Grand Rapids, is holding a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new building as well as celebrating the school’s growing success.
“It is a celebration for many respects. First, we are opening our brand new high school. It’s actually the 3rd phase of growth here at West Michigan Aviation Academy and also we are handing out our iPads to almost 250 students,” said CEO Patrick Cwayna.
The charter school opened in 2010 with just 80 students and now three years later, enrollment is pushing 250.
“We anticipate going to about 400 next year and hopefully 500 to 600 the following year,” said Cwayna. “There is no waiting list yet. Every year, we ask for more seats from our authorizer so we anticipate adding seats every year so we don’t really get to a waiting list.”
The new 42,500 square foot high school is laying the foundation for future growth. The building is complete with a grand commons area, gymnasium and fitness area, high tech classrooms, new science labs and much more.
Cwayna says he thinks the success of the school, and its new facility, makes a strong statement in the community.
“I think it legitimizes our high school. It is a footprint that will be here for a long, long time. If anyone wondered if we were going to make it, the answer to that question is, ‘yes we are making it’. We are going to make it. It just kind of gives us that stamp of approval,” he said.
The charter school caters to students with a strong interest in aviation and/or math, science and engineering. Cwayna says the school has become a regional educational attraction.
“We are more than West Michigan. We have become more of a regional high school. We have students from north of Sand Lake. We have them from Grand Haven, Muskegon, the lakeshore and almost touching Kalamazoo. We have even had students move in from Jackson, Battle Creek and Portland as well. We are really attracting a wide variety of students from a long ways away,” he said.
However, the school leader says the school is not for everyone. Cwayna says the actively search for students that will be a good fitfor the school.
“So we are looking for students who want a type of education focusing on math and science in a small school environment where they get great attention to detail and great parent/faculty communication,” he said. “First and foremost we are a college prep school with an aviation or engineering theme. So, we don’t expect all of our students to become aviators, pilots or mechanics, but we are going to give them that emphasis in engineering and creativity. If they go into aviation, all the better, but basically give them a very, very fine college prep education.”
The new facility has been built next to the existing building which is about 25,000 square feet and still being utilized for instruction. Rockford Construction served as the construction manager and Integrated Architecture as the architect for the project.
The dedication ceremony is held Tuesday, October 16th at 4:00pm at the school. West Michigan Aviation Academy is located at 5363 44th Street SE in Grand Rapids. Founder and board president, Dick DeVos will be among the many speakers.