New Middle School in Sun Valley to be Named Desert Skies


Proposed layout of middle school grounds in Sun Valley.
Proposed layout of Desert Skies Middle School grounds in Sun Valley. Image: WCSD

The new middle school being built on the north end of Sun Valley will be named Desert Skies, Washoe County School District trustees decided Tuesday.

The school will have a 1,400-student capacity and is scheduled to open in fall 2019 on an 80-acre parcel off Donatello Drive.

Desert Skies will also keep Sun Valley middle school students close to home. Currently half are zoned for Traner Middle School and the other half are zoned for Sparks Middle.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders will attend Desert Skies, which will be modeled similarly to Depoali Middle School in south Reno. The estimated construction cost is $85 million.

The district is in the process of transitioning sixth graders from elementary to middle schools, which will free up space at elementary schools, many which are over capacity.

Desert Skies was chosen over Sun Valley, a regional name, and Michael Landsberry.

Sparks Middle school math teacher and former Marine Michael Landsberry, 45.  (AP Photo/Nevada Air National Guard)

Riley Sutton, a district public relations specialist, told trustees the School Naming Committee questioned the sensitivity and timing of naming the school for the late Landsberry. The Marine Corp veteran and Nevada Air National Guard master sergeant was a Sparks Middle School teacher who was shot dead in fall 2013 while trying to protect students from a 12-year-old who opened fire on campus.

“It’s more a question of, ‘Are we doing any harm? Is it too soon?’” Sutton said.

Eighteen names were submitted from the public to the School Naming Committee in mid November. Committee members narrowed the list to eight during a December meeting and then again to three during last month’s meeting. The committee gave Desert Skies the most votes, followed by Sun Valley. Landsberry was third.

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Trustee John Mayer said Desert Skies is reflective of the area where the school is being built.

“It’s such a really unique name,” Mayer said.

School Naming Committee members submit applications and letters of interest to the board prior to being selected. The 11-member committee is made up of one district representative selected by the superintendent, seven members of the public (one from each trustee district), one high school student and two at-large members.

Funds for school construction are coming from a 0.54 percent voter-approved sales tax increase approved in November 2016. 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 405 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.