H-E-B to Fund Tech High Schools in San Antonio

(Photo: Forbes)

(Photo: Forbes)

H-E-B grocery stores and its CEO, Charles Butt, are offering startup funds in an effort to create a number of industry-led, career-themed high schools that will be known as the Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST). The schools will be launched throughout San Antonio thanks to a partnership with local schools.

Operating as an in-district charter of the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), the first school to launch will be CAST Tech, focusing on technology and entrepreneurship. Tech Bloc, a technology economy advocacy movement, will be the lead industry partner who will guide curriculum and offer internship opportunities.

In order to open, the school needs a total of $5 million in funding, which will be put toward a number of things including renovations and key staff members who will develop the curriculum. The grocery chain will be putting $3.6 million toward the opening of the school with plans to open four more schools throughout the city.

After its opening, SAISD will pay for and operate the school as a charter school. The district said they would like to train several teachers in order to replicate the program in its other schools as well, reports Garrett Brnger for KSAT12.

As the first of its kind in the state, CAST schools will use an innovative curriculum in combination with technology in order to better prepare students for positions in fields that are currently in high demand.

"The active participation of industry throughout the development of the CAST schools and the student experience is what will set them apart," said Kate Rogers, H-E-B VP, corporate communication and health promotion. "To be successful, we need companies willing to dedicate the time and resources to designing curriculum and providing opportunities for real-world experience outside the classroom."

Two "pathways" will be provided for students to follow toward graduation. The first will focus on careers in things like cybersecurity, coding, animation, and digital media, while the other will look more toward business analytics, business administration, banking, and informatics.

Students who enroll in CAST high schools will have the opportunity to complete college coursework that will be included within the classroom curriculum, as well as internships for credit, job shadowing, mentoring, summer job opportunities, guaranteed interviews for those that graduate, and project-based learning. Graduates will receive a high school diploma in addition to a minimum of 30 hours of college coursework, and will have the further opportunity to earn an associate's degree and industry-recognized certificate, writes Elizabeth Lepro for The San Antonio Express-News.

Rogers added that for every one student who graduates from high tech or computer science programs, there are ten jobs available throughout the country.

Some of the content and instruction for the school will be delivered digitally, allowing students to work at their own pace. Teachers will work as coaches and mentors and class time will be structured around research, labs, and projects.

CAST Tech is expected to open in the downtown tech district in the fall of 2017 with its first class including between 125 and 150 ninth-graders.

H-E-B, based in San Antonio, operates over 370 grocery stores in Texas and Mexico, bringing in sales topping $23 billion.

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