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District considers changes to Pine Middle School


Pine Middle School will follow others, like O’Brien, with big changes to its building or its format with the help of consultants, community members, and the final say from the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees. 

WCSD and CannonDesign, a large architecture firm, on Monday hosted a regional conversation about the future changes to Pine Middle School. District officials and design experts went over some of the data on Pine that has been collected so far and shared with community members what possible options there are going forward. 

“First and foremost, our families and our students care deeply about the schools and the communities that they live in without exception,” said Adam Searcy, COO for Washoe County School District. “Every one of them wants to do more to improve them.”

The event, which lasted from 5:30 to 7 p.m., highlighted other recent changes to local schools including Hug High School and O’Brien Middle School. These new buildings will be considered the standard going forward with any new school constructions in Washoe County. 

Pine shares the same design as the old O’Brien school, and both were built in 1975. A new three-story building was constructed on O’Brien’s campus and opened in 2022. The old building was torn down and will be replaced with sporting fields.

For Pine, three options were examined. The first option would keep Pine as only a middle school but update the building and possibly the school’s programs. The other two options were to change the school to only an elementary school or a K-8 for the students assigned to it. 

Smithridge Elementary School is across the street from the middle school.

Parents and community members review options for potential changes to Pine Middle School in Reno, Nev. on April 24, 2023. Image: Mark Hernandez / This is Reno
Parents and community members review options for potential changes to Pine Middle School in Reno, Nev. on April 24, 2023. Image: Mark Hernandez / This is Reno

“In a couple of different formats we heard concerns around that transition period or anytime when there is going to be a change, how can we make that change more positive,” Searcy said. “Everybody understands that change can be difficult but whether the transition is ‘Hey, I’ve gone to one school for a couple of years and I’m going to go to a different school to finish my experience.’ How can we plan for that to make that transition a positive one, embrace that change rather than having it be abrupt and negative for those that experience it.” 

Some people in the crowd voiced concerns over possibly merging schools and what that could mean for teachers, who would possibly have to look for a different position at another school since most schools don’t need duplicate positions. 

The project is currently at a very early stage and district staff are collecting more data, including how many students are enrolled and what kind of programs are offered. Some suggestions from CannonDesign could include merging schools together to take advantage of low enrollment numbers or changing the grades that will be taught at certain schools going forward. 

Pine has 840 students enrolled this school year across grades 6-8 – about average for area middle schools.

At the tail-end of the event, members of the community were invited to help draft possible solutions that they would like to see implemented. These were collected by CannonDesign and will be used going forward as options for the final report that goes to the Board of Trustees.

The architecture team will return in the fall of this year to go over more options and discuss with the community what they have found through additional research. The earliest any construction can take place would be the 2026-2027 school year. 

Mark Hernandez
Mark Hernandez
Mark was born in Mexico, grew up in Carson City, and has recently returned to Reno to continue to explore and get to know the city again. He got his journalism degree in 2018 and wants to continue learning photography for both business and pleasure. Languages and history are topics he likes to discuss as well as deplete any coffee reservoirs in close proximity.