A new career-focused high school is coming to Northside Independent School District in fall 2022, school leaders told trustees at a meeting Wednesday.
CAST Teach will focus on preparing future educators as part of the Centers for Applied Science and Technology, or CAST network of schools. The network partners with districts around San Antonio and each school focuses on creating a better-prepared workforce in a particular sector.
CAST Teach will be located at one of Northside’s existing campuses – at a site that has yet to be determined – and will host an inaugural class of 140 for their freshmen and sophomore years. Those students will then move to the University of Texas at San Antonio for their junior and senior years as part of a partnership between UTSA, Northside, and CAST to stand up the school and its programming. The school was originally supposed to open in fall 2021, but Superintendent Brian Woods said the district pushed the start date back a year to allow for more planning time.
“A school like this does not exist,” said Janis Jordan, NISD’s deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “The curriculum has to be built from the ground up.”
The governance of the campus will look different than at other CAST schools. In San Antonio ISD, the CAST schools are managed under Senate Bill 1882 partnerships, which make the campuses in-district charters with day-to-day operations overseen by outside entities. SAISD’s school board then holds the outside entity accountable for the campuses’ performance.
On Wednesday, several NISD trustees said they did not want this kind of governing structure in place over CAST Teach. District officials told the board that NISD trustees would retain oversight over the CAST Teach campus and remain responsible for the hiring and evaluation of staff.
Much is still to be determined before the campus opens its doors. Northside, the CAST Network, and UTSA must sign an official agreement to move the planning forward. District officials said they expect that agreement to go before the board sometime this fall.
After the agreement is finalized, the partners will choose a location for the new school, hire a principal, create an advisory committee to guide the planning process, recruit students, and design the curriculum and student experience.
Northside officials also told their board of trustees they negotiated to keep 75 percent of seats at the new school in the district. In the other CAST schools, each district has had to reserve 50 percent of its seats for students living outside school district boundaries.
“What we’re trying to do is build excitement around teaching and [develop] basic skills,” Woods said, adding that the high school could help Northside build their own future workforce of educators.
Northside ISD recently has invested in more specialty programs as more charter schools opened within district boundaries. In fall 2019, the district opened the John Marshall Law and Medical Services Magnet School, its first new high school magnet program in 10 years. This fall, the district opened its first middle school magnet program at Jones Middle School.