Mortuary science getting funeral home

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The future location of the Mortuary Science building is located at 210 W. Ashby and Lewis St. It will be renovated for students to learn hands on mortuary science. Photo by Kristel Orta-Puente

The program offers embalming and other services.

Correction: The mortuary science program at this college is not licensed through San Antonio Mortuary, 703 Palo Alto Road. The program is licensed as San Antonio College Mortuary.

By J. Carbajal

The mortuary science program is “the closest (we) have ever gotten to” getting a funeral home on campus, the program coordinator said Feb. 7.

“Faculty members have been working diligently to have that place,” Jose Luis Moreno said in an interview.

The plan is to renovate and adapt the Ashby House, a former residential structure that the college has used for offices. It is located at Ashby Place and Lewis Street east of Koehler Cultural Center and west of the early childhood studies center.

He hopes the renovation will be finished within the year to fit the needs of a functioning funeral home.

The building is currently occupied by Vaughn Construction Co., which is working on renovation projects on campus and will renovate Ashby House.

Office walls will be removed to create an open space for a chapel downstairs, along with a prep room and dressing room. The upstairs will be kept as an office space to make funeral arrangements.

These plans are subject to change, however, after consultation with engineers and architects, he said. They have to check which walls they can remove and which are vital to the support of the structure, he said.

The program is getting the necessary permits from the city to authorize the remodeling of the interior.

“It has to be in compliance with the new regulations, especially the Americans with Disabilities Act. They have to have a ramp, an elevator, something that house did not have,” Moreno said.

This college is the only college in Texas with a mortuary science program licensed as a funeral establishment. The program’s license is maintained through San Antonio Mortuary, 703 Palo Alto Road, which provides the facilities requirement.

For example, a licensed funeral home must have a chapel with at least 10 seats. He said the program can provide 10 seats in a classroom on campus, but that space is inadequate to serve people who have lost a loved one.

The program does not currently advertise to the public because of the lack of space, but they have serviced two families. One of the services was for an infant, whom they brought to the family’s church, and the other was only a cremation with no service with the body present, he said.

The mortuary science program offers services such as embalming and cremation to families with special circumstances but hope to offer their services publicly once the funeral home is open.

“However, with the opening of the new facility, we also will need to have a designated person for the funeral home and somebody to answer the phone over there. Right now all of (the) faculty members, even though (they) are all licensed, and do know how to conduct a funeral …  are all in class,” he said.

Finding another person to run the establishment while the instructors are in class will be another cost, Moreno said.

San Antonio Mortuary lacks some of the luxuries other funeral homes have to offer, such as a hearse and space for a chapel, but they “know their limitations,” he said.

The funeral science field is demanding, and students begin working hands-on early into their first semester to ensure that this is the right field for them, he said.

To involve students in the process of running a funeral home, they work closely with 29 funeral homes as of this semester, three of which are located outside San Antonio.

“We have a memorandum of agreement with local funeral homes, and the funeral directors there are pretty much an extension of San Antonio College because the students … shadow the funeral directors for eight hours,” Moreno said.

The funeral home on campus will directly involve students in each step of a service, from funeral arrangements to the ceremony.

What will be done with the deceased’s body must be decided, whether the next of kin does or does not want a ceremony or memorial service and if the deceased will be buried, cremated or donated to science, he said.


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