Participants in the school credit firefighter program in the Frankfort-Schuyler Central School District may soon be eligible for two credits instead of one.
Frankfort Fire Chief Charles Conigliaro asked for the change after giving a presentation on the program during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
He said while 85 percent of the nation’s firefighters are volunteers, there has been a significant decline in the number of volunteer firefighters in recent years and the average age of most volunteer firefighters is 40.
Training is required by law and much of it is the same as the training required for career firefighters, but he pointed out volunteers face the same dangers and challenges as their paid counterparts. “Volunteer fire departments are their communities’ first line of support and protection,” he said.
Conigliaro said the school credit firefighter program in partnership with Frankfort-Schuyler Central School allows youths, starting at age 16, to join the department.
“It’s an agreement between the student, the parents and the school,” explained Conigliaro. “They have to maintain at least a 70 grade point average in school and put in 120 hours a year of service.”
The program also makes them eligible to be considered for possible college tuition reimbursement through the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.
Students take part in training and have the opportunity to serve their community and receive training in firefighting, emergency vehicle operation, fire prevention and emergency medical services. He noted students must be 18 before they can take the EMS exam.
The program has been in place in 1999 and the department has had 19 students participate. Four are involved in the program now and seven alumni of the program are current members of the department.
“There’s no financial impact to the school,” said Conigliaro. “We receive many inquiries about the program — how it’s working and how we did it.”
He said having the students available was crucial during the major fire at Union Tools that kept firefighters on the scene for a long period of time. “These are folks that get the work done and we need them,” he said.
He added that normally he does not encourage students to leave during the school day for routine fire calls and he stays in touch with the school to make sure program participants are in attendance and doing well with their class work.
Conigliaro said when he joined the fire department there was a waiting list of three to five years, but this is no longer the case.
He asked if the district could consider raising the number of academic credits received through the program from one to two.
School Superintendent Robert Reina said he thought this could be done.
Page 2 of 2 - “He does monitor what the kids are doing here at school,” said Reina, noting some participants have improved their academic standing. “This is a very good resource, having the fire department working cooperatively with us. It’s been a successful venture.”
Board member Jack Bono commented that having programs such as this one, along with the Future Business Leaders of America and the mock trial team are “one way a small district can offer more.”