Members of the Houston board of education heard Tuesday that plans for health occupation classes and other goals for vocational training at the Piney River Technical Center are moving forward.

Several organizations have joined the district in offering students a career path that includes education to learn skills for demand jobs. The project includes Texas County Memorial Hospital and the City of Houston’s Industrial Development Authority, which owns the building housing the undertaking on Spruce Street.

Dr. Justin Copley, Houston High School principal, gave the board an overview of the program that is likely to gain a full-time instructor for the health occupations program. Health Sciences 1 allows a student to earn a certified nursing aide designation. Health Sciences 2 would include instruction for phlebotomy and EKG technician. Also on the drawing board is establishment of a welding program. An advisory team, Copley reported, is pushing to meet a deadline to begin that by the start of the next school year. It will be situated at the Piney River Technical Center.

The program got a big boost last fall when a $195,000 USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Grant was obtained, said Rob Harrington, director of economic development for the City of Houston, said. Houston’s industrial development authority pitched in about $48,000 for the cash portion of the grant.

Funds were earmarked for a variety of equipment, including welders, safety gear, welding stations, tools, classroom furnishings and equipment, mannequins to simulate patients and nursing and phlebotomy training equipment.

Copley praised the efforts of the industrial development authority that has provided vision for the project to benefit school district schools and potentially some from other districts.

For Texas County Memorial Hospital, it provides career training for demand professions, and the opportunity to hire students locally who have completed the training. It has contributed equipment.

School board hears health insurance will rise about 3.2

Members of the Houston board of education last week heard health insurance costs will increase about 3.2 percent for the budget year that starts July 1. That is about $18 per month per employee for the same policy coverage. The district pays 100 percent of the employee’s cost.

In other matters, members:

•Approved a contract with the City of Houston to continue providing an officer at the district. Officer Josh Green fills the position.

•Heard that the success of the district’s cross-country track program will require the addition of an assistant coach.

•Received a report on high school activities from Andy Durham, the newly selected student liaison. He replaces Danielle Walker, whose term expired and whose service was recognized at the meeting.

•Held a discussion on the recently virtual school held during a recent cold snap that closed classrooms. Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) was discussed. Lessons learned were highlighted, and it likely wouldn’t be used unless something caused a long stretch where in-person instruction was not possible.

•Heard from Dr. Allen Moss that a recently filed grant would provide a significant financial boost, if approved, to replace the track at Tiger Stadium. It is no longer in use.

•Approved rolling back a mask mandate for middle school and high school students and staff amid an improvement in COVID-19 cases. However, it is possible it could return if positive cases numbers start to surface again. The risk, he said, is quarantine situations as the district begins its annual student testing.

•Discussed potentially including total teaching years in a calculation for teacher pay. Such a move, Moss explained, might help recruitment.

•Heard that a fund created by Ross and Linda Richardson through the Houston Community Foundation honors their daughter, Leah, with a $400 annual distribution to help a teacher with supplies.

•Learned roof work on campus — following an insurance settlement —  is making progress following a devastating March 27 hail storm.

•Will likely hold a work session as budget formulation begins. Priorities would be established. Raising the base for starting teachers also might be examined.

•Heard that the district is seeking a technology director and listened as an insurance broker discussed the firm’s services.

The next meeting is 6 p.m. April 13 at the high school library. A video of last week’s meeting appears at facebook.com/houstonherald

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