Cedars International Next Generation High School debuts in Austin

August 22, 2016
Austin-American Statesman

Cedars International Next Generation High School

Students hustled Monday morning to be the first group among their peers to build the tallest tower out of dry spaghetti noodles topped by a marshmallow. In another classroom, students tied strings around a rubber band and worked together to grab and stack plastic cups.

The ice breakers on the first day of school at Cedars International Next Generation High School were an introduction to the kind of collaborative learning the students will experience throughout the school year.

Longtime Central Texas school Principal Steven Zipkes, the founding principal of Manor New Tech High School, came out of his brief retirement to help start the new charter high school.

Cedars International Next Generation High School debuts in Austin photo

As thousands of other students in Austin, Leander, Hays and Eanes headed back to school Monday, Cedars made its debut. The high school is located near Austin Community College’s Highland campus. The proximity to ACC is not a coincidence: Cedars is partnering with the college, giving students in upper grades the opportunity to take courses at ACC.

Just over 100 students are enrolled, coming from Cedars’ grade school, other charters and area school districts.

Preston Romero, 14, said the dual-credit courses the school will offer will help him earn college credits more quickly so he can start medical school, where he wants to study gastroenterology.

Cedars International Next Generation High School debuts in Austin photo

“Just from the start, I can tell the teachers want you to learn and succeed,” Preston said.

Most of the classes will be team taught, with more than one subject integrated into the course.

Students at the school will also be able to earn certifications, such as in computer repair, and the school day has 100 minutes built into it for individual learning time, when students can see any of their teachers for extra help or work in study groups.

“I’m excited about starting this new school because it gives students more personalized learning,” Zipkes said. The school is an “environment where students are taking ownership of their own learning, but at the same time getting a taste of the real world.”