Inside new schools: Gender-neutral bathrooms, hubs

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RENO, NV (KOLO) - Construction is coming along at Sky Ranch Middle School in Spanish Springs. Principal Gina Leonhard regularly visits to check on the progress of the school that 1,200 students have already registered for.

"They're really excited," she says.

And she's excited about this school of the future. Key features will encourage more collaboration among students, such as "hub spaces" in hallways. Those open areas will allow students to work together and collaborate outside of the traditional classroom setting. Another new feature: gender-neutral bathrooms. The most striking aspect is how it's not actually a room, but a big open area with sinks and stalls in the hallway.

"All the bathrooms are what I refer to as single-use," says Principal Leonhard. "They're just like going to the bathroom in Starbucks that has a sign that has a boy and a girl. And it's just a toilet in a room. Full door, full walls, lock the door and use the bathroom."

Each stall has a door that goes from the ceiling to the floor for privacy. There will be cameras in that general area, but not in the stalls themselves.

"It's very, very common out in public. It won't be a big deal for our kids," says Principal Leonhard.

What is a big deal is school security. The new schools are being built with a single point of entry.

The new schools will also be opening as -- what's being called -- "one-to-one device schools."

"Our students will have access to a laptop," says Leonhard. "Every student, one to one. One device, one student. We are on the cutting edge of this education era in our district and we are excited to bring out new innovative ways to teach kids and to bring out the collaboration and work beyond what we usually do in the classroom."

Sky Ranch Middle School isn't the only one taking shape. Nick Poulakidas Elementary in south Reno and Desert Skies Middle School in Sun Valley are also nearing completion.

"We're on time and looks like under or on budget," says Riley Sutton with the Washoe County School District.

And the schools are just months away from opening their doors to students in August.

"We're just really excited for the community to see these," says Sutton. "It's so awesome to see these schools basically finished."

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