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College board to review fire science program

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The Mid-Plains Community College Board of Governors will review a follow-up report pertaining to the Fire Science Program during a regularly scheduled meeting, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, at McMillen Hall on the McCook Community College Campus.

The report was requested by the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education after a 2009 review of the program indicated it did not meet enrollment and completion rate thresholds. Area Vice President of Educational Services and Student Development, Dr. Jody Tomanek, said that when originally submitted in 2009 "the fire science program was meeting thresholds in relation to student credit hours versus full time equivalency, but not with graduates. Which is why the coordinating commission asked for a follow-up report."

Tomanek added that there is no no danger of losing the program; however it is currently not meeting either threshold and the college is taking steps to revitalize it by reaching out to rural fire houses to provide training opportunities. Tomanek specifically mentioned that initial discussions with the fire chief in Ogallala were taking place, pertaining to how the college can help meet their needs with this program.

The program is currently being offered via the Distance Learning system in North Platte and McCook, which utilizes the Internet and other technology to allow instructors to teach classrooms on multiple campuses.

McCook Fire Chief Marc Harpham is an advocate and beneficiary of the McCook Community College fire science program, who thinks it could blossom into something much more. Harpham, like most of his staff, is himself a graduate and also received his degree in Emergency Medical Services locally. "It is a good program and has a good future," said Harpham.

Harpham believes McCook is poised to aid the program in expanding into something much more than it is today and said that one of his firefighters had already been hired on a part-time basis to coordinate the program with Kathy Dernovich, who is the Director of the Health Occupation Department at McCook Community College.

"This includes the emergency medical technician courses and both the traditional and accelerated paramedic course. Several of our full-time fire department staff already help in teaching the various courses that are part of the program. I'm teaching a firefighter fitness course next semester," said Harpham, who added that the unique thing about the program was that it was offered in a rural setting.

Other advocates for the fire science program have commented that with McCook already having nine full-time emergency services staff members, additional training space reserved in the soon to be constructed McCook Municipal Facility and being centrally located for North Platte, Scottsbluff, Alliance and Kearney, expansion of the program here could be a huge success for the college.

"The accelerated para-medic program is bringing in students from all across the United States and even some from abroad. The fire science program has the potential to do the same if the college could find a way to devote similar time, personnel, and funding to that program," said Harpham.

Harpham said the program is extremely important to McCook and the surrounding area and believed that to be proven by the overwhelming support and participation it had received since its conception.

"The city has a vested interest in keeping the program in McCook and to continue to help it grow and prosper," said Harpham.

In other action, board members will consider proposed election redistricting. The changes are in accordance with Nebraska statute and based on the federal 2010 census, according to the meeting agenda.

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