The district seeks to ensure safe and appropriate use of expanding new technology on campuses districtwide.
In keeping with the Lenape Regional High School District’s (LRHSD) commitment to provide students and staff with cutting-edge educational opportunities in a safe and secure environment, the LRHSD Board of Education on Wednesday, Feb. 15, approved a policy to guide the operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) popularly known as drones.
The policy was developed to ensure the safety and security of students, staff and visitors to the district, meet FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) policies and regulations governing the commercial operation of drones and expand and support the use of UAS technology in curricular and extracurricular activities.
According to Tractia, which analyzes emerging technology trends, drone sales are to increase tenfold by 2021.
“I don’t know if drones will be as common as cell phones, but we are witnessing an increasing number of careers using drones, and we want our students to be prepared,” said Superintendent of Schools, Carol Birnbohm, Ed.D. “Students planning for college and a career in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) likely will work with drones. The use of drones isn’t limited to STEAM careers; realtors, farmers, construction workers, electricians, contractors and public safety officials are using drones. And the creative and performing arts’ possible uses for drones seem to be endless.”
“We want to ensure that LRHSD students are not just exposed to new technologies, but have the opportunity to safely work with cutting-edge technologies, such as drones, in our academic programs and extracurricular activities,” added Heather Xenakis, LRHSD director of Curriculum and Instruction. “We were among the first districts to bring robotics into our programs. Today it’s drones.”
Following the adoption of the UAS policy, the district will form a committee to evaluate the policy and develop guidelines for how the technology will be incorporated into curricular and extracurricular activities. The committee will include teachers and administrators from all four LRHSD schools representing a range of curricula including Air Force JROTC, technology, engineering and creative arts to name a few.
Teachers who express interest in working with drones will be trained on safety and FAA policy and regulations. Several members of the LRHSD staff, including Director of Media and Communications, John Donaldson, completed extensive FAA training, passed an FAA-regulated test and are certified under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule.
Donaldson, who spearheaded the drones initiative said, “We’ve been researching the drone industry and monitoring the FAA’s policies and regulations since 2014. It was only recently, on August 29, 2016, that the FAA put into effect the new Small UAS Rule (Part 107). The new rule provides a clear picture on ways the LRHSD can integrate drones (UAS) into the district while complying with all of the appropriate rules and regulations.”
According to Donaldson, there are two means of flying small, unmanned aircraft: recreationally as a “hobbyist,” or commercially for work/business.
“Anyone who will be operating a drone on school property, including school employees, will fall within the ‘fly for work’ commercial operating category and must be certified,” said Donaldson.
The comprehensive district policy was necessary not only to ensure the safety and security of students, but also to be certain the LRHSD Drones initiative strictly adheres to FAA regulations. Per the policy, drones cannot be flown on LRHSD property without prior district permission.
According to Birnbohm, LRHSD expects to incorporate some of the committee’s recommendations for use of drones as early as the 2017/2018 school year.