Usually, when a school is built next to an airport, school officials express concerns about the proximity of airplanes to the classrooms. At Tradewind Elementary School in Amarillo, Texas, Principal Kim Bentley couldn’t be more excited about the location.
The new school is being built next door to Tradewind Airport (TDW) and Bentley, who is not a pilot, sees the arrangement as a way to spark the imagination of the students. She is making it her mission to incorporate aviation into the design and character of the school.
“For starters, the main hall of the school is designed so that it looks like an airplane hangar,” she said. “And our school mascot is an aviator.”
Tradewind Airport is the quintessential privately owned public use airport. According to the Internet site Airnav.com, Tradewind Airport is home to some 85 aircraft ranging from single-engine pistons to a helicopter. The airport has two runways, 17/35 measuring 5,099 x 60 feet, and runway 5/23, which is 3,000 x 60 feet.
Bentley notes that the library sits perpendicular to one of the runways and the northwest corner of the school building is about 345 feet away from the smaller runway.
“From the library you can see the airplanes take off and land,” she said, adding that FAA guidelines were followed in regard to building near airports.
Building near an airport also requires input from the Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Division, says Linda Howard, director of planning and programming for TXDOT. Of particular concerns are noise levels and the proximity of structures to protected airspace.
“As long as there is adequate separation between the runway and the safety areas it can be done,” she said.
The school sits on 18 acres carved out of a 300-acre development. The land for the school was donated to the Amarillo Independent School District by developer Perry Williams, who, according to the Amarillo newspaper, also owns the airport. Williams declined to be interviewed for this story other than to say “The development will bring approximately 1,600 houses to the area.”
Even if the houses are not finished and the families moved in by August when the school is slated to open, there would be students, according to Bentley. “Several of our schools are already overflowing,” she said. “The district redid the boundaries so that we will start with 300 kids at Tradewind this year.”
In addition to ordering furnishings for the school from carpets to pencil sharpeners, Bentley is trying to incorporate aviation into each classroom and the halls by bringing in aviation-themed artwork.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Internet looking things up,” she explained. “At first I thought it would be neat if the kids could get those little wings from Southwest Airlines, but I am learning there is so much more out there.”
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