Medical-focused CAST high school to open next year

/ / News

CAST MedThe third high school in the Center for Applied Science and Technology, or CAST, network will have a medical focus, opening in August with partners that include the San Antonio Independent School District, San Antonio College, UT Health San Antonio and two local hospitals.

The new school’s principal will be Eddie Rodriguez, founding principal of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Early College High School in Harlandale ISD, which he led until July.

“This has been a long time in coming for our city and especially for the South Side of the city of San Antonio,” Rodriguez said at a Wednesday news conference. “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.”

H-E-B two years ago launched the career-focused network and in 2017 opened its first school, CAST Tech, on the Fox Tech campus downtown, also in SAISD. The second school, CAST STEM, opened two months ago in Southwest ISD.

The supermarket chain donated $1 million Wednesday to help transform a classroom building in the Brooks development on the Southeast Side once used by Texas A&M University San Antonio into CAST Med.

H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt personally donated another $1 million to the school’s capital campaign. SAISD has also contributed $2 million to the campaign, leaving $8 million to go.

The school’s partners plan to add an auditorium, lab spaces and computer stations to the building.

As with other CAST schools, the goal is to recruit half the students from outside the partner school district, said Kate Rogers, a network founder and president of The Holdsworth Center, an education leadership program that Butt is funding.

The school will accept 150 freshmen into its inaugural class, then will grow over the years to an eventual capacity of about 600 students. Its partners hope the school will help close a gaping workforce shortage in a critical sector.

Fewer than 1 percent of Bexar County high school graduates end up with a degree in a medical field, but in the next six years, the growing metropolitan area will need at least 25 percent more medical professionals, said Dr. Ronald Rodriguez, chairman of the UT Health San Antonio Department of Urology and a 1980 graduate of Jefferson High School in SAISD.

“We have no ready pipeline for this,” said Rodriguez, who is not related to CAST Med’s new principal. “We need to develop it. This is our problem and we need to solve it — and we can. We have the technical expertise. We have the will to do it and now we have the opportunity to.”

CAST Med will not have admission requirements beyond a stated interest in medical careers. The application period will begin next month and end in February. If more than 150 students apply, there will be a lottery.

The school’s partners said another predominant goal is increasing access to medical education for low-income students who would be the first in their families to attend college.

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez contrasted CAST Med with Health Careers High School in Northside ISD, consistently ranked among the city’s best, where only 20 percent of students qualify for income-based meal subsidies, compared to a statewide average of 59 percent and an SAISD average of 91 percent.

In SAISD, students live near modern hospitals but don’t see them as potential workplaces, Martinez said.

“For them, it’s a distant world,” Martinez said. “These are children right now that can’t even fathom themselves in this area. That’s what we’re building.”

CAST Med will begin with three pathways: medical, research and public health. The school’s partners, which include Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, will help design the pathways and develop the curriculum.

Source: San Antonio Express-News By: Alia Malik