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4 Wing prepares to launch private school

After the official closure of R.A. Reynolds School at 4 Wing in June, plans to establish a private school on the base are moving full-speed ahead. The school will be renamed to the Art Smith Aviation Academy.

After the official closure of R.A. Reynolds School at 4 Wing in June, plans to establish a private school on the base are moving full-speed ahead.

The school will be renamed to the Art Smith Aviation Academy. The kindergarten to Grade 8 school will offer specialized education in aviation and include a focus on math, sciences, and engineering.

“Kids are going to be exposed at a young age to various aspects of military aviation. They will be involved in the base itself. They'll come on base and be exposed to all sorts of things that a regular public school student wouldn't have a chance to see,” 2-Lt. Alex Whittaker said.

The base will have to find $1.75 million for start up costs at the school. Whittaker, with 4 Wing public relations, said while the government would provide funds for the school in its second year, the private school would be responsible for funding its first year.

The base is optimistic that industry will step up to provide the school's first year of funding. Cenovus Energy has committed to providing some of it, with other members of industry expected to come on board shortly.

“Cenovus believes in doing our part to strengthen the communities where we operate. We have a great working relationship with the people at 4 Wing and we know this school is an important project for them,” said Cenovus spokesperson Rhona DelFrari.

The new school will be renamed the Art Smith Aviation Academy, after the World War Two pilot. Smith won a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service with the military, which included 34 combat flights on Lancaster bombers. Smith worked in Alberta's oilfield after the war, and later was elected alderman on Calgary city council.

In 1955, he was elected to the provincial legislature with the Progressive Conservative party, where he stayed for two years before getting elected to the House of Commons. Smith joined the Order of Canada in 1988 and later was awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence.

Smith's connection to the base was that, in 1997, he became Honourary Colonel of 416 Tactical Fighter Squadron. Smith also was honoured by having the Art Smith Aero Centre for Training and Technology at SAIT in Calgary named after him in 2004. He died in 2008.