Washoe's newest schools: High tech, high expectations

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SUN VALLEY, NV (KOLO) The coming school year will open with three new local schools. Today we got a first look at two of them.

They are both cutting edge. One has a larger goal: strengthening its community.

One is an elementary school in south Reno, the other a middle school in Sun Valley. Different grades, different communities. Together they represent a new generation of schools and reflect a new approach to education.

"The openness," says Adam Searcy, The Chief Facilities Management Officer for the Washoe County School District. "There are a variety of collaboration spaces and interior transparencies that are intended to enhance the connectedness of the student body."

For those who haven't visited a school recently, there are surprises.

Don't expect to see rows of desks. They're arranged in pods to encourage collaboration.

Don't expect to seek blackboards, even the interactive white boards that seemed so revolutionary a few years ago have been replaced by large monitors.

Don't expect to see large stacks of textbooks. There will be some, but mostly they'll be replaced by computers.

"Our kinder and first grade students will have iPad access in the classroom. Our second through fifth graders will have laptops they can take to and from school," says Nick Poulakidas Elemetary School Principal Don Angotti.

"They're used to using laptops and handheld devices and that's how they're going to access their curriculum now," adds Desert Skies Middle School Principal Laura Peterson.

You won't even see boys and girls restrooms. There are private stalls now, each with a smoke detector. And a communal area with sinks.

It's all designed to incorporate today's technology, evolving social and educational goals and beyond.

Schools are supposed to impact their students. The aim at one of these schools is to bring a whole community together.

Desert Skies is Sun Valley's first middle school. Historically, students from these neighborhoods have been split between three different schools. Now they'll all attend the same one and they'll be divided into houses--think Harry Potter's Hogwarts if you will--with the same home room teacher.

"If they're here as 6th graders they're going to be in that house for three years and they'll be working with that same group of students for all three years."

Those houses are reflected in the inspirational messages you see at every turn. A new approach to middle school education under the common banner of Scorpion Strong (the Scorpion is Desert Skies mascot).

Desert Skies is a school which frankly was built and designed to give a local community which has not, let's be honest, often been afforded a lot of respect, a new point of pride to build upon.

"We want everyone in the Sun Valley community to support our students, to look out for them, to make sure they are safe and to get to school and work hard and achieve at the highest level."

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019