There is a new charter school in South Reno! Doral Academy of Northern Nevada (DANN) opened its doors to Washoe County School District students this past Fall in its temporary location at South Reno United Methodist Church off of Mt. Rose Highway. This school is right in my neighborhood, so when a parent asked me if I’d be interested in meeting with the principal for a blog post, I jumped at the opportunity!
I sat down with Principal Megan Pruitt to get answers to questions that were submitted to me by local parents. I was really impressed by her professionalism and her excitement for the school’s future. The school broke ground on a new, dedicated facility in December, and it’s scheduled to be complete by the beginning of August — just in time for the new school year of 2018-2019, when they’ll be welcoming students from Kindergarten up to 7th grade. She showed me the plans for the school, and wow! The school sits on 5 acres in between Butch Cassidy (across from Galena High School) and Mt. Rose Highway. It will have a basement and two stories. There will be 15 classrooms, plus dedicated rooms for music, art, science, computers and even a dance studio and a kiln room! The school is designed to hold 1,000 students, but upon opening the new facility in the Fall, they are planning for 580 students. (Seriously, check out these floorplans!)
Doral Academy of Northern Nevada is hosting an open house on February 1 at the South Reno United Methodist Church to answer any questions parents might have. The enrollment for next school year is currently underway and closes February 28. Get details here.
Here are the questions that parents submitted to me, as well as the answers that Megan Pruitt provided.
Q: How is the DANN approach different than traditional WCSD schools?
A: We teach core content using arts integration strategies. For example, we have a partnership with Sierra Arts Foundation and the staff is all trained by the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Sierra Arts Foundations sends arts specialists into the classroom. For example, if a teacher is instructing on science, they might have a theater teacher come in to bring it the science concept to life through theater. The students are currently studying movement and dance. Teachers work on their lesson plans and movement specialists work on strategies. We’ll end last semester this year with visual arts. Megan said, “This type of learning, kids love it. I’ve seen the kids learn deeper and love school more than they ever have.”
Q: What will the class sizes be?
A: Right now, there are 21 students in every classroom, but they anticipate going up to 25. 7th grade is planned for up to 30 seats, but we don’t envision them all being in the same class at the same time. We avoid going over 25 students in a class.
Q: Will there be a playground?
A: Yes! In addition to a playground, there will be a huge turf field because DANN welcomes many club sports, from flag football to basketball.
Q: Will the school follow the WCSD balanced Calendar?
A: It will vary a bit. School won’t start until August 20, but then the breaks are mirrored. However, winter break has been shortened and Spring Break is only 1 week. View the 2018-2019 calendar here.
Q: Tell us about the plan for 7th grade.
A: We’re planning for a class of 30, but they will switch classrooms. We are basing electives off of national arts standards, and they will likely include dance, theater, media arts, music and visual arts. we’re working on what the scheduling will be like. We’re currently reviewing ideas proposed and how the Las Vegas Doral Academy middle school model works. One of the options is “blocking”, where each subject gets 110 minutes. This 7th-grade class will age up to a new 8th-grade class in 2019-2020, and then the school will have it’s full grade levels of K-8.
Q: How does enrollment work?
A: Enrollment is currently open. We’re currently planning for 580 students, but need about 200 more within the registration period. If you sign up before the end of enrollment and not all seats are filled, your child is guaranteed a spot. If you sign up after the enrollment period and classes are full, then you’ll go on a waiting list. If more students sign up than available seats, there will be a lottery by grade level.
Q: How much time will be devoted to science?
A: We describe our curriculum as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). Want a balance of art and STEM so that we’re engaging both the right and left brain. We also do social studies. We use next-generation science standards including engineering practices.
Q: How often do you have PE?
A: We have PE once a week, but believe in getting the children moving. We have a lot of kids with attention challenges. Teachers are trained on how to work with children for personalized strategies. One student’s IEP includes that he can stand up when he needs to, and they’ve affixed a band to the bottom of his chair so he can move his feet. There is a lot of partnership with families. We believe in physical education, and have it for all the grades, including the upper grades. We never take away recess.
Q: How do they develop kids who are ahead in some subjects or behind?
A: The goal to have every student have an individualized learning plan. All classrooms have both interventions and enrichment. We use project-based learning. We find through projects we can differentiate for the student needs.
Q: What is the discipline procedures?
A: We use a program called The Leader In Me based on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and it’s called 7 Habits of Happy Kids. Our goal is to develop every student to be a leader as a foundation. It’s very positive and we have a progressive discipline policy, but a lot is involving parents as a team. We aim to teach good habits, being proactive and helping learn skills that will make them successful.
Q: Is there a uniform?
A: Yes. There is a polo shirt, girls have dresses. You can view the options at Doralacademystore.com. They can purchase bottoms anywhere.
Q: Do you have any sub openings?
A: Yes. We’re trying to build substitute teacher list. If you’re interested, please call the school!
Q: Are you hiring teachers?
A: Yes! There will be a job fair for teachers on March 24 at the South Valley’s Library from 10-2pm.
Q: What is your parent volunteer policy?
A: Parents are asked to volunteer 30 hours per school year. This can be in any capacity that is supporting your child’s education. If you truly can’t make time for this, you can purchase hours.
Q: What is your school day schedule?
A: Next year, all grades will be on the same schedule of 9:30 – 3:30 with no early release on Wednesdays. We do have 5 minimum days per year where students dismiss at 1:15.
After meeting with the principal, I asked two parents of students at DANN currently what their experience has been like.
Amber Jones said, “Switching my daughter to DANN has been the best decision. My daughter went from being a child that had little to no confidence in the classroom, felt like she was a ‘dumb dumb head’ (her words not mine), and never volunteered to answer questions; to a child that is a leader in the classroom, guides the other students to follow directions, thrives in the classroom and is not afraid to volunteer the answer. Truth be told, my child has a learning disability, she processes information differently than the other children and when I discussed this with her teacher and the Principal they said what can we do to help her succeed. This school thrives on out-of-the-box thinkers, it embraces those children that process differently than their peers and they find those children’s strengths and make them better. The children are taught to be responsible for their behavior and to be good stewards towards one another and towards those in their community. We are a community within a community. Parent involvement is high as the families are responsible to complete 30 volunteer hours for the school during the school year. The DANN staff is passionate about the children, they are passionate about the families. I am so happy we took a leap of faith and joined this amazing school community!”
Priscilla Fitzpatrick told me, “This is a wonderful school. The staff is very caring and attentive to all the children. My daughter is learning and having fun at the same time. She has a wonderful teacher who is supportive and encouraging. I thought there would be a lot of challenges during this year for being in such a small building at the time, but everything is working out well and we’ll actually miss this place even though we are excited for the school being built. I can’t say enough great things about Megan who is a wonderful person and is excelling at her job as Principal.”
I also asked fellow Reno Moms Blog Contributor and kindergarten teacher at DANN, Shontell Brewer, about her experience as a teacher at the school. She said, “Teaching at Doral has allowed me to get to know the families, the student strengths, and any struggles they met in traditional school, so I can focus on teaching them as a whole child. We have the freedom to have grand ideas and put them into action to really engage students in what matters to them. I get more steps in during a math lesson than I ever did teaching all day in a traditional school.”
So there you have it. This seems to be a great new option for South Reno students!