Progreso ISD unveils $3M tech building

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PROGRESO — The Progreso Independent School District held a ribbon cutting ceremony for an over $3 million technology building here last week.

After more than four years of construction, the district will offer a variety of classes for engineering and manufacturing to be taught in the new building, which is located near the district’s high school and middle school campuses.

Classes offered will include fields such as welding, Superintendent Sergio Coronado said. The district hopes the facility will offer students the ability to enter the workforce after graduation in “industry-based” professions and the training and experience to do so, Coronado said in a speech.

Most of the instructors who are teaching out of the building are from South Texas College, which adds a “special context” in providing training and expertise to the classrooms, he said. Classes began on Aug. 26 district-wide.

“We have a very small community and we feel the necessity to train our students in specific career pathways in order for them to compete in high paying jobs…” Coronado said. “We want to open the door to new opportunities for our students.”

Incorporating different grade levels is also a goal of the district with this new building, including students in middle and elementary schools.

“The very special thing about our building is that we’re going to involve every single student in our district,” Coronado said.

The first six week of classes will be theory-based before moving into working with the machinery, Coronado said. Early College Director Leticia Aguilar said students can obtain a certificate in manufacturing and an associate of applied science degree among the potential offerings, along with machining classes from the basic level to an advanced capstone. Students graduating with certificates can earn from $35 to $42 an hour, with the district encouraging alumni to obtain an associate’s degree with STC.

Some students may not feel interested in attending a four-year program at a university, and this offers another path after graduating, she said.

The building is about 28,000 square feet total, with a manufacturing room, two large classrooms that also function as computer labs, and the lobby, according to Sergio Lainez, an architect at Fulcrum Consulting Services. This new building also provides a dedicated space for students in welding, which was done previously at the high school, board Vice President Juan J. Ramos Jr. said.

The area also has fans to circulate and provide ventilation, Lainez said. This provides a way for students in the education system to learn a skill in a convenient manner within the district, rather than having to go elsewhere.

The Sept. 3 grand opening ceremony included Progreso band students pepping up the audience of students, board members and administrators.

State Rep. Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, also attended the ceremony and stressed the importance of local educational institutions expanding.

Progress on the facility’s construction was met with several delays, from weather, to legal issues regarding a former contractor who in 2014 pleaded guilty as part of a pay-toplay bribery scandal that involved his company and several former Progreso school district and city leaders.

McAllen-based architect Jesus Bustos pleaded guilty to conspiracy in April 2014, admitting he paid bribes in order to secure multimillion dollar contracts with PISD and Weslaco ISD.

Four members of the same family pleaded guilty or were convicted of charges related to the scheme, including: Omar, Jose and Michael Vela, who pleaded guilty to “conspiracy and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds,” according to an August 2014 statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Meanwhile in a related case, Orlando Vela was convicted of theft from a program receiving federal funds, the statement reads.

Omar, Michael and Orlando Vela are brothers. Jose Vela is their father.

Speaking of the facility’s opening after its years-long development, board Vice President said it’s ready to be put to use. “It’s for the students… this building is ready (to) get going,” Ramos said.