Crunch Time For New SAISD Charter School

Jul 14, 2017

Among the exposed walls, blowing fans and dozens of construction personnel, Heather Plank -- hard hatted and enthusiastic --  is explaining the the layout of one classroom in the San Antonio Independent School District's newest in-district charter high school, CAST Tech.

"So this is more of the typical classroom, that has the three different learning environments in it," Plank says explaining that each teacher will have three areas from instruction, to individual to group learning spaces.

CAST, or the Centers for Applied Science and Technology is the brainchild of HEB's Charles Butt. And CAST Tech is the first and a collaboration between HEB, Charles Butt, SAISD and the technology community. Subsequent CAST schools will have different focuses and be in different districts.

This 35,000 square foot building will host the school's first 175 students  in a month, but one might be surprised by the look of it.

"We had a very tight timeline. Normally this project would take 16 months and we did it in nine," says Plank who praises the Joeris workers for turning this former set of shop classes on the Fox Tech High School campus into something remarkably different.

Despite being unfinished, the building has been transformed from the empty husk the district showed off a few months ago. Windows with controllable tint, removable walls, and -- of course -- the former main entrance is the focal point for a set of wide stairs that double as seats and act as an auditorium-like presentation space. 

Plank says she is 100 percent confident they will make their August 1st finish date.

That's good because the first eight teachers for this school start next Monday. They will be working out of the adjacent Fox Tech library for now. 

Principal Melissa Alcala helped hired these teachers -- who are all new hires to the district.  She started before her contract to interview future teachers.

"Hiring a teacher is like a work marriage, so you gotta make sure it's a good fit," Alcala says, explaining why it was so important to her to be involved.

She says those teachers are integral to developing the school's yet unfinished curriculum.

Alcala began a few weeks after former Principal Kelly Isbell's contract wasn't renewed in an unexpected leadership shakeup that sparked official grievances and some confusion among San Antonio's technology leaders.

Alcala says the shakeup hasn't impacted their ability to recruit tech industry mentors, a sentiment echoed by multiple tech leaders TPR contacted.