Three Tomball entities—Tomball ISD, HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball and Lone Star College-Tomball—are working to launch a Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in health professions, TISD officials said.

According to the Texas Education Agency, a P-TECH is an open-enrollment high school that allows students least likely to attend college an opportunity to receive both a high school diploma as well as a credential and/or associate degree at no cost via a work-based education.

“There continues to be a growing demand for health care workers across the country and in our community,” Susan Harris, director of nursing administration for HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball, said in an email. “This program helps to promote students’ interest in the health care industry by exposing them to various health care careers when they begin high school.”

If approved by the state, TISD officials said the early college high school program will launch in the 2023-24 school year, and applications are anticipated to open during the 2022-23 school year for ninth-grade students.

“[This program caters to] the student who may not see themselves going off to a university right after high school, someone who thinks, ‘Maybe I want to go into health care,’ and they just want to explore it,” LSC-Tomball President Lee Ann Nutt said.

Proposing a P-TECH

Nutt said the proposed P-TECH builds on the relationship TISD and LSC-Tomball have formed for Tomball Star Academy, TISD’s early college high school program that launched in August 2017.

TISD Dean of Student Advancement Bob Thompson said in a Jan. 13 statement TISD submitted its application to the TEA in December to be approved for a year of P-TECH planning. According to the TEA, districts must file a planning year application. If approved, eligible districts spend five years provisionally working to meet the standards set for college and career readiness school models.

Nutt said the work-based program will likely begin with about 25 students. “There’s going to be some size constraints just to make sure everybody gets that work-based experience,” Nutt said.

Meeting workforce needs

If approved, the P-TECH program will be housed at the Tomball Innovation Center on FM 2920, Thompson said.

“The state’s P-TECH initiative allows districts to pursue an innovative model that allows students a highly focused program of study in a high-demand, high-wage field,” Thompson said in a statement. “Our P-TECH in health professions will allow students to gain hands-on and on-site training that will allow them to compete for openings with our industry partner, locally, and throughout the state.”

Harris said potential certification programs include pharmacy technician, operating room scrub technician, patient care assistant, phlebotomy technician and EKG technicians. Students will be introduced to various health care fields during their freshman years with clinical hours during their sophomore, junior and senior years.​​

“Without this type of program, many of these students may not be able to attend college or attain a certification of this type to work in their particular field of study,” Harris said. “Our hope is to be able to hire those students upon graduation.”