A consultant has recommended replacing Sparks and Hug high schools with a new school in Sparks for 2,400 students and building five other schools to accommodate anticipated growth in the Washoe County School District.
Sparks High would be converted to a middle school, and most of the district’s elementary schools outside the urban core would go on a year-round, multi-track schedule, under the consultant’s list of recommendations presented Monday to the school board.
The school district hired the Cunningham Group, an architectural design and planning company headquartered in Minneapolis, to analyze how the district could meet projected growth in student enrollment tied to the resurgence of the area’s economy, including the arrival of large-scale employers such as the massive Tesla battery factory east of Sparks.
Tim DuFault, Cunningham Group’s president and chief executive officer, presented his company’s study and recommendations, the bulk of which are based on projections extending 10 years out.
DuFault cautioned that the margin of error on 10-year projections can be significant and that his company’s analysis is “one way of looking at data” and should only be considered the beginning of a discussion. He said the recommendations are based entirely on enrollment data and existing school capacity.
School board members took no action, as the presentation was only for information and discussion purposes.
The Cunningham Group compiled a list of recommendations for handling increasing enrollment at the elementary, middle-school and high-school levels.
At the high school level, the Minnesota Company suggested constructing three 2,400-student schools: One that would combine Sparks and Hug high schools, another in the North Valleys, and the third, a larger facility to replace Wooster High School. In addition, Damonte Ranch would be enlarged to accommodate up to 2,400 students. It now has about 1,800 students but was designed for 2,400.
The new school to replace Wooster could be built on the southern end of Wooster’s attendance zone, taking students from Damonte Ranch though a change in the attendance zone, DuFault told the board.
Sparks High is recommended to be converted to a middle school, he said, while Hug High could be “repurposed in a number of different ways,” including a facility for specialized academic programs. Some attendance-zone changes around the new high school in Sparks are recommended to disperse enrollment.
DeFault said Spanish Springs and Damonte Ranch are projected to experience significant overcrowding within five years, with all high schools across the district expected to face overcrowding within 10 years.
Growth at McQueen, he said, will be difficult because it can’t be expanded based on the size of the school property.
Middle schools will face the greatest enrollment pressure within five years, DeFault said. The largest growth will occur in the South Meadows area of Reno, he added.
In addition to converting Sparks High into a middle school for 1,400-1,500 students, the consultant suggested adding a new 1,200-student school in Spanish Springs and another school in south Reno.
The consultant recommended that schools outside the McCarran loop (except Verdi, Gerlach and Incline Village) be moved to a year-round multi-track schedule with four sections, which, according to the company’s analysis, would accommodate most of the projected enrollment growth at those schools.
For schools inside that loop, the Cunningham Group recommended “substantive investments” to building additional small-group instruction space and, where needed, the replacement of existing portable classrooms with permanent spaces.
Sparks and Dillworth Middle Schools are recommended to be converted into larger elementary schools to replace Risely and Lincoln Park schools, which could be used for special educational programs or other district functions.
The Minnesota company suggested a new school between the North Valleys and Spanish Springs as well as the creation of a new specialized or magnet elementary school on the Wooster High campus.