‘Extraordinary project’: Groundbreaking held for new Early College High School

A ribbon cutting was held yesterday on Medical Drive where the new UTRGV/Early College High School campus is under construction. Pictured from left to right are Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell, HCISD Board Member Nolan Perez, UTRGV President Guy Bailey, HCISD Superintendent Arturo Cavazos, and HCISD School Board President Eladio Jaimez.

HARLINGEN — It’s on the move. The new Early College High School is well on its way to serving Harlingen school district students at a brand new 64,000-square-foot facility.

City leaders, university officials and school district administrators met for a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning at 2901 Medical Drive. Construction has already begun on the new state-of-the-art facility scheduled to open for the 2021-2022 school year.

“This is truly an historic and innovative partnership which will make higher education degrees so much more accessible to young people in our community,” said Mayor Chris Boswell.

The new facility is the result of a partnership between the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the City of Harlingen and the Harlingen school district. The city donated the 6.3 acres for the $14 million campus, which will replace the old facility on Pecan Street. Both entities are splitting the cost.

A resolution to build the new campus was signed last year by Harlingen Superintendent Art Cavazos, UTRGV President Guy Bailey, then-School Board President Greg Powers and Patricia Alvarez-McHatton, dean of the College of Education and P-16 Integration.

Cavazos and Bailey congratulated each other for their hard work. “What’s happening today is the future of Texas,” Bailey said at the time. “The partnership we have, what we’re doing moving forward as institutions, is where the future is.”

Tuesday’s groundbreaking was a big step toward changing the future of many local students, said Veronica Kortan, administrator for organizational development.

“This is a monumental day for our district and our community,” Kortan said. “This is going to challenge the dynamic for people in the Central Valley. I’m excited about the opportunities we’re going to be bringing our students.”

Kortan has seen the difference ECHS has made in the lives of students since it first opened on Pecan Street in 2007.

“As I look back at our first cohort of students at ECHS, I know this makes a big difference in the trajectories of our students,” Kortan said. “We are breaking the cycle of poverty so our students can have a different kind of life.”

UTRGV ECHS offers students a direct path to a bachelor’s degree with a focus on academic core, engineering, computer science or education. Through this program, students can earn up to 60 hours by the time they graduate from high school.

Dr. Janna Arney, UTRGV deputy president and interim provost, said this partnership will benefit hundreds of Valley high school students by giving them an academic and a financial jump on college.

“This partnership exemplifies UTRGV’s commitment to student success and specifically to the success of our Harlingen Early College High School students,” Arney said.

“We are grateful to the City of Harlingen and to the Harlingen Consolidated ISD for being great partners in this extraordinary project.”

twhitehead@valleystar.com