School District Expects to Make Offer on Land for High School by Year’s End

School District Chief Operating Officer Pete Etchart fielded numerous questions about the plan to build a new high school at the Wildcreek Golf Course. Image: Bob Conrad.
School District Chief Operating Officer Pete Etchart fielded numerous questions about the plan to build a new high school at the Wildcreek Golf Course. Image: Bob Conrad.

Wildcreek Golf Course is the best place to build a new high school despite potential challenges at the site being highlighted by opponents, according to a presentation made Thursday by the Washoe County School District to the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.

The 212-acre public golf course at 3500 Sullivan Lane in Sparks is currently run by RSCVA. It has an 18-hole, par-72 course and a 9-hole, par-27 course on site and is operating at a loss of $270,000 annually.

The school district is spending $200,000 to conduct due diligence on the property and is expected to finish by November, chief operating officer Pete Etchart said. This includes surveys, traffic studies, environmental assessments and addressing issues with the Federal Aviation Administration, among other things. It then is expected to make an offer to RSCVA for 75 to 80 acres of that property by year’s end.

“We’re very hopeful the engineering studies being conducted now will determine it’s an ideal location for the high school,” Etchart said.

RSCVA attorney Ben Kennedy said there are no deed restrictions on the property and that Washoe County must approve the sale from RSCVA to the school district. Also, Wildcreek is served by effluent held by the City of Sparks.

Tentative plans are for the 2,500-student school to go on the 9-hole course and on part of the 18-hole course. A reconfigured 9-hole course in the area has been suggested. Other options floated for the surrounding property to be maintained by Washoe County include a performing arts center, a community center, hiking trail, swimming pool, tennis courts, a preschool, and outdoor learning center.

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School district rendering of the Wildcreek High School project.

Several residents of the Wildcreek area showed up to voice their opposition to the location, citing a need to preserve green space and public golfing facilities. Other concerns were flood issues, traffic, and pedestrian safety with students potentially crossing North McCarran Boulevard.

“We are not against schools. Education is very important and we want to see good schools,” said Darlene Hesse, a Wildcreek resident. “But there’s got to be other pieces of property.”

The new school would replace Hug High School, 2880 Sutro St., which was built in the late 1960s that serves about 1,450 students. Plans are to close Hug at the end of the 2020-21 school year and send most of its students to the new school at Wildcreek, located 1.8 miles to the east. It would also draw from Sparks, Reed, and Spanish Springs high schools. Hug would then reopen as a career and technical academy in fall 2022.

When fielding questions, Etchart said acreage necessary for a high school is hard to find in an urban area and that arterial roads are ideal for high schools.

“We’re willing to work with you to a point but you’ve got to keep us informed,” board member Nat Carasali said. “Give us some dates with updates so we know where the hell we are. We’re sitting in limbo right now.”

Etchart said there have been several meetings about the project in which RSCVA has been involved. After purchasing property, he said schematic designs are due in summer 2018 and groundbreaking will be later that year.

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“You’ll be seeing those updates as we go along,” Etchart said.

He was also asked about a backup plan if studies indicate the cost to build at Wildcreek is too high.

“My greatest fear is we lose a high school and a golf course,” Sparks City Councilman Ed Lawson said.

The average cost to build a high school is about $110 million. Mitigation concerning water and soil issues could raise the price; although infrastructure in the area is already in place, which could save money. Additionally, the property is already zoned for public facilities so no zoning change would be necessary. Labor costs and the labor pool could also be a factor, Etchart said.

The district will keep its promise to the community to build a high school, Etchart said.

“We don’t build high-end schools,” Etchart said. “We build solid schools designed to last for 100 years.”

Funds for school construction to alleviate crowding are coming from November’s 0.54 percent voter-approved sales tax increase. Such dollars can go only toward construction of and refurbishing of facilities. This money cannot be used for teacher or administrator salaries or other school operations.

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Carla O'Day
About Carla O'Day 344 Articles
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.