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HISTORY: Introduction to the first Downtown High School

One might say that public secondary education took its time getting to San Antonio, but once it took root at
the site that is now Fox Academic and Technical High School, 637 N. Main Ave., it was here to stay.

While the ancestor of Central Catholic High School, the Ursuline Academy and the German-English School all
were founded in the 1850s, these were fee-paying schools intended to serve specific populations, Catholic boys, Catholic girls and students bilingual in German and English. Through the 19th century, a high-school education was largely reserved for the elite who did not have to contribute to the household income. To give an idea of how rare it was nationwide to have a chance at an education beyond the eighth grade, the U.S. Census for 1890 shows that only 6 percent of the population between the ages of 14 and 16 were enrolled in high school; by 1900, only 3 percent of Americans had graduated from high school.

The date usually given for the founding of San Antonio's first high school is 1879, but that was a rather humble beginning. According to information provided by San Antonio Independent School District, it was a “one-teacher facility for all grades,” known as Central School or Central Grammar and High School. This institution operated in the Firemen's Hall, headquarters for Hook and Ladder and No. 2 Engine companies on Avenue C (later Broadway) just north of Houston Street.

By 1880, classes for students in high school and grammar school (elementary through middle school) grades all met in the former Vance Barracks  the first Army barracks in San Antonio, built by the Vance and Bros. mercantile firm  at the corner of Navarro and Travis streets behind the present site of the Gunter Hotel. A year later, high-school classes migrated to the basement of the original Temple Beth-El synagogue at the intersection of Travis and Jefferson.

San Antonio's first high school finally got a permanent home in 1882, when a three-story stone building was constructed on Acequia Street (later Main Avenue), opening in 1883. Even then, the school had to share classroom space with students of “the higher grades” of the Second Ward School and other overcrowded public grammar schools, according to the San Antonio Light, Oct. 13, 1883. This school was called High School and Central Grammar until 1886. It was then consolidated with another neighboring school and became known as School No. 1 until that designation was transferred to an elementary school completed in 1908. The city's first secondary school officially became known as the San Antonio High School, but familiarly was referred to most often as simply “the high school” or “High School.”

Our First Name Change
The campus name changed after Brackenridge High School opened in 1917, and the original school was renamed after its location. At that time, Brackenridge was expected to serve students from San Antonio's South Side, and Main Avenue was to serve the North Side. Development to the north moved faster, and Main Avenue, the older facility, was showing signs of strain by the late 1920s. Thanks to a bond issue passed in 1929 before the stock market crash, SAISD was able to build the opulent new Thomas Jefferson High School on otherwise undeveloped land considered to be far northwest of the city.

San Antonio high school students were free to choose to attend any of these schools; despite the longer commute, many former Main Avenue students were attracted to the fabulous newer campus.

Our Second Name Change
Main Avenue subsequently was renamed and repositioned as San Antonio Vocational and Technical High School, often shortened to San Antonio Tech. This was largely the doing of Louis William Fox (1889-1978), “a shrewd teacher (who) was able to grab the old Main Avenue High School building and turn it into a vocational school,” says a Light editorial, Jan. 30, 1961. Fox taught for nearly half a century, including 47 years with SAISD as a teacher of manual training and longtime director of vocational and industrial arts. The new Tech “taught students to be self-supporting,” with programs in business, trades, agriculture and home economics. San Antonio Tech pioneered distributive education, a curriculum that allowed students to combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training, and developed courses to meet the needs of the local business community.

The Fox Tech Name and Tradition is Birthed
Fox, who served as principal of Tech, retired in 1949. In his honor, the school was renamed the Louis W. Fox Vocational and Technical School and received its last name change in early 1972. To reflect a changing emphasis, it became the Louis W. Fox Academic and Technical School. Known as Fox Tech, the school went through a bigger transition during the 1972-1973 school years, when its students attended Brackenridge on a split schedule with the host school's students, while the old Tech buildings were demolished and replaced by a $5 million complex. Through all these changes, the school has only switched mascots once from the coyote of San Antonio High School to the buffalo that stood for Main Avenue and still symbolizes Tech today.

Where We are Today
On January 13, 2010, The San Antonio Independent School District announced a partnership with the University Health System in support of a new Medical Professions Magnet Program at Fox Tech High School which enrolled its first freshman class in the fall of 2010.

Early in 2009, a committee was formed to create a shared vision for the magnet program that included members of the University Health System's medical and professional team. Together with SAISD educators, civic leaders and elected officials, they spent a year guiding the program into existence.

The plan created a small, college preparatory school with a medical science curriculum in the central business district that allows students to draw on a wealth of health professionals in close proximity to the school.

Currently, Fox Tech is a public, tuition-free, college preparatory magnet high school specializing in medical science and law and public policy under the leadership of Jennifer Benavides, the current Principal of Fox Tech High School. Located in downtown San Antonio, Texas, Fox Tech High School is a part of the San Antonio Independent School District and is open to committed and qualified students living in Bexar County.


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