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Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District is making progress on upgrades throughout its campuses, all of which were made possible with the passing of the tax ratification in September 2015.

HCISD Academies

 

HCISD Sports Facilities

 

Additional Campus Upgrades

By: Marifer Quevedo

In the summer of 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 5, an initiative calling for a complete restructure of high school student graduation plans and the introduction of a new career and technical education (CTE) course development option. The Harlingen Consolidated Independent District, in line with the district strategic and district of innovation plans, has masterminded and launched six academies featuring CTE courses, where approximately 4,300 Harlingen students will embark on new career pathways in August 2017.

With funds made possible through the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) passed in September 2015, maintenance and construction crews have been diligently demolishing, painting, and upgrading the district’s facilities to meet industry related standards. The district has allotted $1.2 million for the three year CTE expansion plan.

The first year (2016-2017) consisted of a methodical planning period where the budget was set aside while the district fostered local partnerships with various community leaders including the Harlingen Fire Department, Spawglass Construction, Valley Baptist Medical Center, Harlingen Medical Center, and local auto mechanics.

The second year (2017-2018) will mark the launch of the new academies housed at Cano Freshman Academy, Harlingen High School, and Harlingen High School South. Of the reserved TRE budget, $625,000 has been designated this year for furniture, equipment, supplies, welding machines, and construction costs of the facilities.

“We have good people with great vision in the district. All levels understand the importance of investing in our children, not only the current students, but also the future children coming up the pipeline,” says Director of Career and Technical Education Raul Alvarez. “I have sat through numerous planning meetings and have never, not once, encountered any form of hesitation that this is the right path for our district.”

After extensive electrical and lighting upgrades, interior and exterior remodeling, an A/C replacement, and security installation, the former Memorial Middle School Band Hall has been transformed into the Media Arts and Communications Academy (MACA). The inside classrooms have been converted into state-of-the-art audiovisual and graphic arts collaboration work centers, audio and editing rooms, the KHGN studio, and the district’s print shop.

“The goal is for our students to enter the pathway in 9th grade at Cano, where they learn and develop foundational skills in both AV Production and Graphic Arts,” explains Alvarez. “Students will then transition to their comprehensive high schools where they continue to perfect their skills in these areas.”

By their senior year, students will be transported from their high school to the MACA, where they will engage in realistic learning experiences in a cutting edge environment that is aligned to industry standards.

“We have to think about the spectrum of life and what students need in order to be college and career ready,” says Alvarez. “We know major industries are coming down to the Valley’s market to capitalize on the low cost of living. We know they need skilled individuals so we need to empower our schools. At 17, we want our students to graduate with more tools in their pockets to give them a competitive edge and to help them develop themselves and their passions.”

In effort to aid in the expansion of CTE opportunities for students, House Bill 5 allows school districts the ability to issue teaching permits to individuals who do not hold a teaching certificate, but who the district regards as highly qualified industry experts to teach these technical courses. Candidates need to meet a determined set of criteria including: professional work experience, relevant industry licenses, background checks, classroom management training, and sufficient expertise to provide instruction necessary to meet the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Students enrolled in the CTE academies will be able to learn first-hand from experts and specialists in their chosen fields. They will have the opportunity to graduate not only with authentic, hands-on experience, but also with possible postsecondary credit, an associate’s degree, or an industry-recognized certification.

The state of Texas requires for Texas schools to include at least one of 16 career and technical industries into its programs. HCISD currently incorporates 15 out of these 16 programs of study.

The third year of the CTE expansion plan (2018-2019) will consist of improvement of current academies and the introduction of additional academies in fields including HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), police and EMT, business finance and marketing, culinary arts, aviation, and diesel mechanics.

“We are investing in our students so they leave our district with something valuable,” says Alvarez. “We need them to be more than just a number and be prepared to succeed in whichever direction they may go.”

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