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Keller ISD health science programs lack space

Central High senior Vlad Bondar has wanted to be a doctor for about as long as he can remember.

Bondar didn’t hear about the Keller district pharmacy technician program until he was a freshman.

“I knew it would add a lot to my knowledge of how drugs work and different pronunciations, and it would be good for a job in college and getting experience in a medical setting,” Bondar said.

Central senior Kristen Conard said she got into the program to help her become a child life specialist, a liaison between medical staff members and families to explain various treatments.

Conard said, “Being able to understand what a drug actually does and how it interacts with the body is really helpful.”

The pharmacy technician program is one of the few pathways for Keller district students like Bondar and Conard to gain practical medical knowledge.

Kelley Kirby, Central teacher and pharmacy technician director, said that most of her students want to be doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

“This gives them a huge foot in the door,” Kirby said. “Many of my students are working in retail pharmacy while they are going to college.”

Classes teach basic pharmacy knowledge, laws, dosage information, how to make various formulations and how to put together sterile intravenous products.

While the school program covers all the knowledge students need to become a certified pharmacy technician, they must wait until they have a high school diploma to take the certification tests. During the class, students can get certification in making sterile intravenous medications.

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Central High School houses the only pharmacy technician program in the Keller school district, drawing about 40 students from across the district. Kirby teaches two double-blocked sessions of the course. Earlier this year, Kirby won the “Diamond Teacher of the Year” for her pharmacy technician program. The award recognizes her for students’ perfect passing rate on the intravenous certification exams.

Students must apply to the program in the spring of the previous year due to the limited spots available.

Making room

Casey Stone, KISD director of career and technical education, said, “Right now we have a current issue with a bottleneck. There are vastly more interested in health science technology that we have space.”

In addition to the pharmacy technician program, Keller schools offer a certified nurse aide program and clinical rounds which involve shadowing medical professionals.

For the pharmacy course, students from other schools must travel to Central, which may or may not work with their schedule, Stone said.

Kirby said the pharmacy technician program would benefit from an improved facility.

“I don’t have all the equipment I need quite yet,” she said. “One of the things students have to learn is surgical scrubbing for hands. When we do that, we go to the teacher’s lounge.”

Last year, about 1,100 KISD students were enrolled in health science CTE classes, the third most popular track behind STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) and audio-visual technology.

If voters approve the bond Nov. 4, a career and technical education (CTE) center would have space for additional advanced health science courses. Stone would like to add tracks for physical therapy, sports medicine and emergency medical technician. He also envisions a course linking business and health sciences for medical coding and billing and joining engineering and health sciences for a biomedical technology course.

“Having seven pathways rather than just three will make it more likely that students can take classes all the way through,” he said.

A CTE facility could have a mock pharmacy set up with some of the same equipment technicians would use on the job, Stone said. He also would talk to architects about installing structures that would duplicate the back part of an ambulance and a hospital room.

Without the facility, the advanced equipment for many of the courses is not available. Because of the lack of upper level classes, many students take freshman and sophomore classes but don’t advance any further.

“When you get to the upper levels of high school classes, you need more options and more pathways,” he said.

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