A new program that will prepare students to become registered nurses, or RNs, will open in San Antonio Independent School District’s Fox Tech High School next fall.

Healthcare Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or H-TECH, will help students study healthcare-related fields and obtain certifications as a patient care technician, pharmacy technician, or in first aid, or CPR. The ultimate focus is to prepare students for careers as registered nurses, a position in high demand throughout San Antonio.

“The need is there, even today the need is there,” said Greg Seiler, the CEO of Metropolitan Methodist Hospital. At a press conference on Tuesday to announce the new school model, Seiler said the immense growth coming to San Antonio would create an even greater demand for nurses.

SAISD will partner with San Antonio College, Methodist Hospital Metropolitan, and University Health System on H-TECH, which will be housed in Fox Tech’s health professions magnet school. These partners will help students complete work-based training via internships, apprenticeships, or other job-training programs.

The H-TECH school is based on the P-TECH or Pathways in Technology Early College High School model, already implemented at Sam Houston High School’s Cyber P-TECH program. The program at Sam Houston was the city’s first P-TECH program, although other school districts have since expressed interest in opening their own versions.

The P-TECH program is a national, industry-specific educational model the State Legislature approved in 2017 for use in Texas schools.

The model allows students to earn a high school diploma, associate degree, certifications, and obtain work-based training in specific career fields over a span of four to six years.

SAISD’s H-TECH will open applications to 50 incoming ninth grade students living throughout Bexar County. Each year, a new grade will be added to the program. While SAISD typically opens new school models with a larger inaugural class, the district was confined by available space at Fox Tech, Superintendent Pedro Martinez said.

The district would be interested in expanding the H-TECH program to other schools throughout the district, Martinez added.

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez

A student’s first two years at H-TECH will be split between the SAISD Fox Tech campus and San Antonio College. The last two years will be spent solely on the college campus.

H-TECH students will be able to obtain their Associate of Science through San Antonio College. After they graduate from H-TECH, students will be eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses or NCLEX-RN. If the student passes, he or she will be a registered nurse.

“RN is in one of those top high-demand, high-wage roles out there, one of the biggest-demanded roles in the next 10 years, so we are looking at using this to create a pathway that could be duplicated across the state,” Johnny Vahalik, SAISD’s senior executive director of career and technical education, told the Rivard Report in April.

SAC is working on offering a bachelor’s program in nursing, starting fall 2021, SAC President Robert Vela said. Students graduating from the H-TECH program would be eligible to continue their education and obtain a four-year degree, he said.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.