South Carolina high school students can’t sit in front of computers or use iPads because of a lack of computer-literacy curriculum, even though the state has the second-highest concentration of computer scientists in the country.
The state has also been known as the country’s “sugar daddy state” for high-tech companies, especially in the area of data analytics, but it doesn’t have an aviation school.
The high school has not had an aviation center since 2012.
In January, the state government signed a $6 million deal with the company NextGen, which is based in nearby Lexington, Kentucky, to build a high-speed data center at its nearby Aviation High School, a $12 million project that will create about 3,500 new jobs.
The school, which opened in 1999, has been plagued by academic underachievement for years.
In 2012, the school had about 60 students, but by 2017 that number had dropped to 40.
The new school will have a student population of about 300 students.
That means it will need to add another 500 students this fall and a total of 1,000 in 2019 and 2020.
In 2016, the South Carolinas Airports Commission gave NextGen a $2.9 million grant to build an office building at the school that will house the school’s operations and provide the school with computer labs.
But the state legislature cut funding for the office building in December, and the new school is expected to be the last school in the state.
The Aviation High school has had students from the city of Columbia, which includes the state capital, for years, but the district’s only computer science instructor is a computer science student from Columbia, said David Crouch, director of the Aviation High program.
Crouch said NextGen would need to fill vacancies in the computer science department.
“The FAA’s Office of Air Traffic Control in Columbia has the most qualified candidates, but we’re a very young district,” Crouch told POLITICO.
“So the first order of business is getting someone with expertise in the field, because we’re the first district in South Carolina that doesn’t actually have a flight control center.”
NextGen said in a statement that it is working with the district to fill the aviation center, but declined to comment further.
In March, NextGen was awarded $2 million to build two new data centers at the South South Carolina Aviation Center and the South Columbia Aviation Center, the two schools with the lowest average students.
NextGen is the world’s largest data analytics company and has offices in nearly 30 countries.
The company has been hiring and expanding its workforce at the schools in recent years.
The South Carolina School of Computing was the first in the nation to receive an FAA-approved pilot program to bring a high speed computer system to the school in 2016.
The program has since expanded to all the South Central states.
The FAA program is for schools with high population and enrollment numbers.
“South Carolina is a place of great opportunity and opportunity is always a plus,” Crop, Nextgen’s chief technology officer, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail in a March 23, 2017, email.
“We are very committed to building a high performance high school in this state, and this program is an opportunity to demonstrate that.”
The pilot program was meant to provide the next generation of data scientists and engineers with an opportunity for them to compete in the lucrative aviation industry, but many teachers and administrators are concerned that the program may have negative consequences for students who don’t yet have the skills necessary to enter the field.
“I think that is a concern because we don’t see students graduating with any experience in the aviation industry,” said Dr. Jennifer Pritchard, an aviation education specialist at the University of South Carolina, in an email to POLITICO.
Last month, a group of teachers and students wrote a letter to the South Cartersville Independent School District in Columbia, calling on the district “to provide students with the training and experience they need to succeed in a rapidly evolving field, and to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.”
“We want our students to be prepared to move on and start careers in the aerospace industry, as well as for those jobs that will be in the future,” the teachers wrote.
“It is time that our students are given the necessary training and resources to be ready to be in our field, to be able to compete and to be successful.”
In an email, NextGEN spokesman Dan Wahlberg said the company is working to “make sure that our pilot program will be a successful success.”
“Our goal is to ensure we get the students who are qualified and have the knowledge necessary to excel in the high tech field and we’re committed to working closely with the South Carroll County School District and our partners to help them make the transition as quickly as possible,” he wrote.
A NextGen spokesman said