At the Special Called Board Meeting on August 4, the Harlingen CISD School Board approved the contract to build the HCISD Transition Academy. This custom-built educational facility will focus on addressing the needs of students with special needs for life after high school.
“We want to further equip our special needs students with life and employability skills, but we want to do so in a real-world environment,” Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education, Joseph Villarreal said. “We currently do these exact same things, but we do them in a classroom, and sometimes that does not transfer easily for the students into their households.”
This new academy will feature two dens, a shop area, and a simulation home with two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, dining room, living room, washroom, and covered outdoor learning spaces.
Students won’t be spending the night at this facility. Instead, they will spend half of the day at the house learning and developing their skills and the other half at a job site that can be obtained through an employer program currently in place at HCISD. During their time in the house, they will be learning essential skills within the various rooms available instead of a classroom.
“We are calling the classrooms dens because it is a house,” Villarreal said. “In the kitchen, they are going to learn how to chop fruits and vegetables, make healthy foods, wash dishes, and load dishes into a dishwasher. In the bedrooms, they will learn how to groom themselves for a job interview and how to get ready for the day.”
Many other skills will be taught at the HCISD Transition Academy.
Along with the health skills cultivated in the kitchen and other life skills taught throughout the house, fitness will also be practiced. One of the dens will have a workout area for students to utilize. The rest of the space in the dens will be used for other purposes.
“In our dens, that is where they are going to get some of the employability skills,” Villarreal said. “We will be partnering with an institution of higher education so that we can provide programs for our students that lead to certifications.”
The construction project was awarded to Wil-Con. This educational facility home will be about 3,600 square feet. Construction will begin this fall. The HCISD Transition Academy will open Spring 2021.