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High-schoolers to build tiny houses as career center expands

KXAN - 8-16-18

Del Valle High School's CTE director Norris Sebastian holds up a fake arm used to teach students how to draw blood correctly.

DEL VALLE, Texas (KXAN) -- Students at Del Valle High School will have new options when the new school year starts there later this month, including the chance to build tiny houses from the ground up.

The district is finishing work on a new career and technical education center on the high school's campus, part of the bond package voters there passed in 2014.

The center will feature a realistic medical facility, complete with areas devoted to patient care, pediatrics, pharmacy and emergency medical services.

"They've been doing those, really, in a classroom," Norris Sebastian, the career and technical education director, said. "And so we felt that it was the right time for Del Valle to honor what the kids have always been doing by putting in this type of facility."

Students will be able to draw blood from fake arms, diagnose conditions in high-tech mannequins, and dissect cadavers using digital video boards.

The medical services wing also features a mock-up of an ambulance and helicopter pad to "recreate the real thing that students will be doing," Sebastian said.

"We visited hospitals, we visited schools and looked at what the relevant equipment was and to the best of our ability, we've added that equipment in," he said.

The new center will facilitate a new career track for students: construction management.

Over the course of their high school years, students in the program will learn various construction skills, culminating in the building of tiny houses inside a massive space in the building, Sebastian said.

Welding students will build the trailers for the homes in their own new space, and construction students will build on top of them. The CTE director said they'd like to be able to give away the homes when they're done, but they need some sort of sponsorship or outside funding to make that possible.

The houses are still a few years out, he cautioned, because the program is new. Incoming students will learn the ropes for their first couple years before putting their skills together to build the homes.

Much of the expansion of CTE programming school districts have committed to recently is the result of slate of bills passed by the state legislature in 2013. They focused on improving options to study trades in high school, and one of the measure, House Bill 5, cut the number of standardized tests required to graduate from 15 to five.

About 2,000 of Del Valle High School's 3,300 students take some CTE classes, Sebastian said, and those on "coherent sequences" -- course schedules designed to walk students up to and through some college-level courses -- can walk away with level 1 certifications that give them a head start on career goals.

Construction crews are still unpacking equipment in the new facility, but the school district plans to have it ready when students head back to class on August 27.