The Wayne County Board of Education approved the addition of the Wayne School of Technical Arts at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base starting in the fall of 2022.

School officials have been working with base leaders since December to add the new school that will be housed in the SJAFB Education Center.

“When the conversation began between Dr. James Merrill (former Wayne County Public Schools interim superintendent) and Col. Kurt Helphinstine (4th Fighter Wing commander) last fall, everyone involved in the planning discussions to follow realized Wayne County was on the cusp on something very exciting,” said David Lewis, WCPS interim superintendent.

“Families and employers are hungry for our district to offer more innovative school program options like the Wayne School of Engineering and the Wayne Early/Middle College High School. The Wayne School of Technical Arts will do just that for students and families across the district.”

The school will be serve an estimated 420 students in grades six through 12, including military-connected youth and youth from across the county, said Ken Derksen, Wayne County Public Schools communications and public information officer.

In addition to Advanced Placement Capstone and STEM offerings, the school plans to offer programs that include digital design and animation, game art design and drone technology. The school will have the unique distinction of being the only public school in North Carolina and one of a small number across the nation located on a military installation.

“We sincerely believe that this program will offer many engaging course pathways and extracurricular opportunities for students,” said Marcia Manning, WCPS assistant superintendent for student services and innovative programs.

Interested students will need to apply and will be selected through a lottery system. Slots will also be made available for homeschool and other non-public school students.

“The 4th Fighter Wing is committed to work with Wayne County Public Schools and supporting enhanced educational experiences for all students in our local community,” Helphinstine said. “The focused integration of partnership opportunities with our local community will improve family quality of life and airmen retention while strengthening our ties with the Wayne County public school system.

“It will provide an additional path for all Wayne County middle and high school students to achieve an advanced level of proficiency as they matriculate to higher education, the workforce or other professional careers.”

The school district will spend the next year planning for student admissions, staffing and equipment. WCPS also will need to finalize a lease agreement with the base, develop a budget and identify funding sources.

The base school will become a part of the Wayne County public school system.

The board approved the formation of the school during its meeting Monday.