Smooth Sailing at Damonte Ranch High

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A new high school opened this week in south Reno. But, Damonte Ranch High School isn't just for 9th through 12th graders.

In an experiment of sorts.

The Washoe County School District added 7th and 8th graders into the mix as well.

The reason: serious overcrowding at Pine Middle School.

Another middle mchool isn't planned for south Reno for another 4 or 5 years . . . and Pine simply can't handle any more students.

If this experiment goes well, it could become a model for the Washoe County School District.

It seems the parents of younger kids might be a little concerned about having their youngsters at the same school at 17- and 18-year-olds.

Yet it seems the advantages for the younger students might outweigh parental concerns.

For advanced 7th and 8th graders, the possibilities are incredible.

Imagine that a 7th grader can take calculus.

Students seem to like it.

Seventh and 8th graders say as they near the end of this first week of school, they're not even intimidated by older students anymore.

"A lot of them are nice and they don't really get in your way," says 8th grader Erin Brett.

"You get to see older people and I get to see my sister at school which is very cool," says 7th grade student Danielle Riolo.

Damonte Ranch already has more than 1,000 students in five different grade levels this year.

And, with seniors expected to be added next year, school principal Serena Robb says she needed a way to create a smaller learning environment for students.

That's where Damonte Dialogue comes in. It's a sort of "home room" environment.

Each class has 20 students from all different grade levels.

"This way every student has a spokesperson," says Robb.

Older students say it was strange to see younger students in class and around campus the first day or two.

"Everybody's so small compared to me," says one.

They say there are some advantages for them as well.

"Maybe they'll look up to us. They'll see us and maybe we'll see some kids who want to be like us - carry on the school tradition," says junior Josh Gill.

With the first week of school coming to a close, Robb says so far it's been smooth sailing.

According to the school district, Damonte Ranch will probably become a regular 4-year high school once a middle school is built in that area.