Central High School will become a regional hub for veterinary science education starting next school year.
"It's the first (veterinary program) in the state of Illinois at the high school level," said Esther Mongan, assistant superintendent of Burlington-based Central Unit District 301. "There's actually a need for (veterinary assistants) across the state."
Students from Elgin Area School District U-46 and Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 also will be able to take veterinary science classes at Central High by agreement with those districts. It marked the first collaborative effort between the districts.
"This is a resource for all of our students across the region," Mongan said.
Officials are working with the Illinois State Board of Education to create the veterinary science course.
"We are unveiling three new career pathways programs," District 301 Superintendent Todd Stirn said.
Central also will offer an INCubatoredu business entrepreneurship program and a MobileMaker app designing course next year.
A new veterinary science lab -- to be built next summer -- and space for the incubator and mobile app programs are part of a $22 million construction project now underway.
District 301 teachers will partner with local veterinarians to help train students in the lab where they will learn skills, such as grooming and administering shots to small animals, Mongan said.
Students in the INCubatoredu program will create and develop their own product or service idea under the guidance of entrepreneurs and experts serving as volunteer coaches and mentors. The district also will partner with local businesses and manufacturers to provide internship and mentorship opportunities for students in these pathway programs.
Central students can participate in U-46's precision manufacturing course and District 300's welding program, according to the reciprocity agreement with those districts.
"These programs will lead students to good jobs," Stirn said.
This year, Central debuted the first phase of improvements -- costing roughly $6.6 million, funded through debt certificates to be repaid through impact fees from new construction. It includes a renovated library with a college-like atmosphere, six new classrooms for music, computer-aided design, computer lab, health and dance/multipurpose use, and modern weight training and cardio fitness areas. The fitness area is equipped with 24 exercise bicycles, treadmills, elliptical and rowing machines.
The second phase includes a 12-classroom addition, a new field house with a 200-meter track, and new locker room and wrestling facilities opening in August 2018. It is funded through the $22 million loan approved by voters in November 2016.
The upgrades are meant to accommodate growth at the high school -- expected to reach 1,200 students by the 2019-20 school year.