With the launch of CAST Med High School nearing, San Antonio Independent School District announced a major donation and slate of partnerships that will help students advance their studies in the medical field when the campus opens its doors next fall.
CAST Med is the third school in the CAST network, a group of in-district charter schools focused on career skills. The school will open in Fall 2019 with its first class of 150 freshmen, chosen by lottery.
"The innovative model of CAST schools is changing the landscape of high school education, and we already are seeing this with the success of CAST Tech," SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said, referring to the other CAST school in SAISD. "The medical-industry immersion students at CAST Med will experience will put them on a higher-level playing field..."
The student body of each class likely will comprise 50 percent SAISD students and 50 percent children from outside the district, SAISD spokeswoman Leslie Price said.
Students can choose one of three academic pathways: biomedical research, medical professional, or public health professional.
Industry partners will help students gain real-world experience within these tracks. SAISD said its partners for CAST Med will include UT Health San Antonio, the University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio College, the Bexar County Medical Society, the Children's Hospital of San Antonio, and Mission Trail Baptist Hospital.
UT Health San Antonio will act as the "anchor partner" for the school and will help CAST Med decide how to best prepare aspiring medical students.
UT Health Professor Dr. Ron Rodriguez said Wednesday that less than 1 percent of Bexar County students end up going into the medical field. CAST Med will help boost this number and fill needed positions, he said.
Teacher residents from UTSA's College of Education and Human Development will work with teachers at CAST Med, and staff with the UTSA College of Sciences' Department of Biology will aid in designing the curriculum. UTSA staff also will help organize student summer programs.
San Antonio College will offer students access to medical labs and equipment and college coursework.
"Students will benefit from state-of-the-art facilities housed in the Nursing Allied Health Complex and the entire college campus," SAC President Robert Vela said.
The high school will be located at the Brooks development at 2601 Louis Bauer Dr. The facility will contain a 215-seat auditorium, lab spaces, and computer stations.
H-E-B and the Charles Butt Foundation are assisting with startup costs through a $2 million donation to help renovate the facility and get the school going, SAISD announced Wednesday.
This $2 million donation adds to $2 million SAISD has already committed to the renovations to complete the first phase of updates. The district announced plans Wednesday to start a capital campaign to fundraise the remaining $8 million needed.
"We saw a critical need in San Antonio to help graduates build skills and connections that will allow them to move seamlessly into high-demand jobs," said Kate Rogers, who as president of the Holdsworth Center, an education leadership development center funded by Butt, is one of the founders of the CAST network. "The model benefits both the individual student and the economy as a whole."
While a number of health careers and professions preparation programs already exist in San Antonio schools, SAISD officials said CAST Med will differ by offering pathways to new careers and by emphasizing access to all students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
"This has been a long time in coming for our city and especially for the Southside of the city of San Antonio," CAST Med Principal Eddie Rodriguez said. "Our community is longing for medical professionals, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and dentists that come from the minority populations that represent so much of our city's residents."