EPISD to consider leasing Jefferson land for research facility
POSTED: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 5:14pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 12:34pm
EL PASO (KTSM) — The El Paso Independent School District will consider leasing or selling land at Jefferson High School to the Medical Center of Americas (MCA) for construction of a new private biomedical engineering facility.
The EPISD Board of Managers voted Tuesday to allow Superintendent Juan Cabrera to meet with the MCA about the proposal and report back to the board in August.
The proposed four-story $30 million building would be built on a yet-to-be-determined portion of the Jefferson campus, according to the MCA President Emma Schwartz.
The non-profit group is spearheading much of the medical development in the area surrounding University Medical Center and the Texas Tech Paul Foster School of Medicine in South Central El Paso.
Schwartz, who told NewsChannel 9 her group reached out to EPISD a few weeks ago, said the facility would provide the Silva Health Magnet students with biomedical research and internship opportunities.
"I think something we struggle with as a community, and as a nation, is how do we better align industry with education," Schwartz said.
Schwartz said the project would also mean enhanced landscaping in the area.
A map of the proposed site provided by MCA showed the placement of the new building directly on top of Jefferson High.
EPISD said the project would not mean the demolition of the 65-year-old school.
At Tuesday's board meeting, both the Jefferson Alumni Association president and the Silva Health Magnet principal expressed their support.
"I think this is a great opportunity," said Silva Principal Fred Rojas.
But some worried the lease or sale of district land --particularly land as valuable Jefferson's, just across from University Medical Center and near the growing Medical School-- could open up a Pandora's box that could eventually swallow the campus.
"I guess it makes sense for our district to get some money," said Jefferson coach Alfredo Barraza, "but it doesn't make sense for the people of Jefferson."
Jefferson recently put its bond-funded stadium project on hold due to a lack of space on the campus.