What’s Up, Docs?

UTSW, Dallas ISD collaborate on new biomedical campus for the youngest scholars

They may not be able to even write their names just yet, but some of Dallas’ youngest students could go to medical school. Sort of.

Dallas ISD announced in October that it was collaborating with UT Southwestern Medical Center to create a pre-kindergarten through 8th-grade biomedical school in the city’s medical district. The school will open in August 2022

2020 Bond Proposal

During a board briefing on Oct. 14, district officials told the board of trustees that the effort was about two-and-a-half years in the making. As early as June 2020, when the 2020 bond bundle that would ultimately be put to voters that November was under discussion, a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade STEM school was on the lengthy list of items in that $3.7 billion package.

“Whether they serve as guest speakers, or (provide) learning experiences, or just other opportunities — they even have a Nobel Prize-winner who has already committed to working with the program.”

Brian Lusk

Voters ultimately approved two out of the five bond packages on the ballot that year, providing $3.54 billion in funding for 14 replacement schools and upgrades to other existing campuses, as well as several new schools.

The first-in-the-nation partnership will result in a school, district officials said, that will offer a science, technology, engineering, and mathetics (STEM) curriculum full of real-world biomedical science experiences that will include plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning and innovative field trips just feet away.

“I think it’s even more exciting is the commitment we have from UT Southwestern to our students and the collaboration they’ll have with our staff,” said Dallas ISD Chief of Strategic Initiatives Brian Lusk. “Whether they serve as guest speakers, or (provide) learning experiences, or just other opportunities — they even have a Nobel Prize-winner who has already committed to working with the program.”

In a press release, district superintendent Michael Hinojosa said the opportunity was a “game-changer.”

“It also highlights how science continues to evolve in a unique, relatable, and innovative way with students as young as three years old,” he said.

“This exciting endeavor underscores what it takes to build and inspire the next generation of physicians and scientists – instilling a love for science in children at an early age,” said Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, UTSW Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean.

The school will start with pre-k through first grade, adding a grade level every year. It will eventually be home to about 650 students. The school will have no academic requirements or attendance boundaries and will be open to students outside the school district.

Enrollment offers will be generated by a random lottery system based on seats available and the student’s priority group, with 50% of the seats reserved for economically disadvantaged students.

Priority rankings start with parents guardians who are employees or learners at UTSW that live within Dallas ISD. Students living outside the district whose parents are not employees or learning at UT Southwestern are the lowest priority in the lottery.

PHOTO: Courtesy Google Streetview

The school will be located on the UT Southwestern campus, in an office building at 6516 Forest Park Road. The building is being renovated in phases, starting with the first floor in Spring 2022, and the second floor and 26,000 square foot addition coming later in Phase 2.

Learn more about the new collaboration between Dallas ISD and UT Southwestern Medical School in our upcoming STEAM special section in our January 2022 issue.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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