HARLINGEN, RGV – Leaders from Harlingen CISD and UT-Rio Grande Valley have signed an architectural agreement on the design work for the new HCISD-UTRGV Early College High School campus.

The agreement was signed at a school board meeting on Tuesday evening.

“The renditions are ready, we have an incredible look to the building,” said Harlingen CISD Superintendent Art Cavazos.

“The building will have the feel of this place, the Harlingen School of Heath Professions, which is a very innovative campus. But it is going to blend into the medical district with the RAHC, the VA, and so forth. You are going to see it as being one big spread of UTRGV as well. We are super excited.”

RAHC stands for the Regional Academic Health Center. VA stands for Veteran’s Administration. 

Cavazos made his comments in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian at a news conference to announce a student-led campaign aimed at reducing the intake of sugary drinks in the Valley. It was held at the Harlingen School of Heath Professions.

The early college campus is on the same parcel of land that will house UTRGV’s Institute for Neuroscience. A groundbreaking for this institute took place two weeks ago. The institute is expected to open next year. The HCISD-UTRGV Early College High School campus is slated to open in August 2021, Cavazos said.

“The new campus will focus on baccalaureate pathways and so kids are going to be able to start their bachelor’s degrees as early as high school. We are focusing on three main areas and, of course, the core academic,” Cavazos told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“We are going to focus on a teacher residency program – we are going to grow our own teachers. That program will start as early as 9th grade and they are going to have some enrichment programs during the summer and during the school years, but they will do their first two years while in high school and then move on to UTRGV campus or stay here in Harlingen and finish their program in the teacher pathway.”

The other specialties will be pre-engineering and computer science, Cavazos said.

“The three baccalaureate pathways are being developed and backfilled into our high schools, to save kids some time. I often tell people, it is not the kids that have limits it is the adults that set the limits,” Cavazos said.

“We want kids break glass ceilings and this is our first phase one of opportunities for baccalaureate degrees to be offered in Harlingen, Texas. And so we are honored to be part of that partnership.”

Asked how unique the tie-up with UTRGV will be, Cavazos said:

“It is very unique in the sense that very few if any early college high schools partner with a four-year institution. Our early college high school will be focusing on bachelor degrees, not necessarily associate degrees. So it is a very different take.”

Cavazos said HCISD and UTRGV deliberately selected specialities that tie in with the workforce needs of the Valley.

“We have three pathways that we have aligned to workforce needs, that have a workforce focus. The whole idea is this partnership. During the day it will be a college for our students that attend our school district but once we are done the keys are turned over to UTRGV and they will use it as a campus here in Harlingen.”

In that respect, Cavazos said, the new early college high school campus will play a dual role.

“It will become a university when we are not using it. What an opportunity. This is an opportunity for bachelor degree courses be offered here in Harlingen.”

Asked if this means Harlingen will be home to a fully-fledged university, Cavazos said:

“The university is coming to Harlingen and while they (UTRGV) have graduate programs already in Harlingen, this is actual bachelor degree programs in Harlingen. And so that is true, the university is coming to Harlingen and it is being built as a phase one campus.”