Filed Under Education

Earl Wooster High School

Built to relieve overcrowding at Reno High, Wooster High School opened in 1962.

Earl Wooster High School was completed in 1962 and opened that fall at 1331 East Plumb Lane. At the time, Reno High School was severely overcrowded, and a new high school was needed to accommodate baby boom kids approaching high school age. Wooster provided capacity for an additional 2,000 students although only 1,400 attended its first year.

The site consists of nearly 40 acres near the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Its campus-style layout, designed by the architectural firm of Ferris and Erskine with John H. Calef taking the lead, was innovative at the time, but typical of multi-building education facilities built in the 1960s. It features open courtyards and pergola-style covered walkways connecting the buildings. All nine original buildings remain intact: three standard classrooms and industrial arts, a gym, the library, administration, cafeteria/theater, and Junior Reserve Officer Training Center. The gym was extended in 1996, and a child-care building was added in 2005.

Each original building is constructed of tilt-up concrete panels with inlaid exposed aggregate cobbles separated by thin strips of smooth concrete. The gardens planted among the classroom buildings still exist, although the plants have been refreshed over the years. The military-style Rally Court Quad in the middle of campus has been revamped.

The school name honors Earl P. Wooster, who had served as the principal of Reno High and was the first Superintendent of Washoe County School District, serving from 1956-1959.

Each classroom building houses specific subjects. Building C/3, for example, is where English and Social Studies are taught. Students circulate around the campus for their classes, while faculty remain in their building. Some faculty have reported feeling isolated from their colleagues teaching in other buildings. On the flip side, students enjoy fresh air and green spaces as they walk from building to building. The walkway surfaces are aggregate concrete—good for traction but hard on any equipment ferried on metal carts.

A new high school required revising attendance boundaries. The boundary for Wooster originally included students far south in ranch country. As a study predicted, many students drove to school. Those who walked often had to negotiate heavy traffic on the commercial streets nearby. Shortly after the school opened, a student crossing Kietzke Lane was killed by a drunk driver, prompting an outcry for safety measures.

The firm of Erskine and Ferris was responsible for a great deal of Reno's distinctive architecture, although John H. Calef, Wooster's architect, left the practice in 1964. Graham Erskine wrote Nevada's architect licensing act, founded the Northern Nevada chapter of the AIA, and was a professor of architectural design at UNR. In Reno, he also designed Reno High School, the College of Education building on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, and Harolds Club.


Wooster High School
Wooster High School An interior courtyard shows pride for the school and its nickname, the Colts. The school's campus feel reinforces the mid-century dedication to combining or linking the interior and exterior of the building in an organic way. Source: Wooster High School
Building layout
Building layout A schematic of the layout of the Wooster campus shows the relationships between the buildings and open spaces. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: February 25, 1961
Cafeteria and theater
Cafeteria and theater The cafeteria and theater building is found at the eastern side of the complex. The theater upon opening had a seating capacity of 240 and the dining room seated 420. Creator: Sharon Honig-Bear Date: 2020
Covered walkways
Covered walkways Covered walkways between buildings provide shelter from both the sun and inclement weather. Creator: Sharon Honig-Bear Date: 2020
The long view
The long view Long outdoor walkways replace interior hallways in the campus design, while large windows provide peaceful views of the exterior landscape. Creator: Sharon Honig-Bear Date: 2020
Gardens and walkways
Gardens and walkways Classroom buildings are separated by gardens with covered, aggregate concrete walkways alongside. Creator: Gail Ewart Date: 2020
Vertical windows
Vertical windows Tall, narrow windows lend a distinctive modern feel to Building A. Creator: Sharon Honig-Bear Date: 2020
Library The curved wall of the library building displays cobbled panels and slim windows, bordered by lawn and pathways. Creator: Gail Ewart Date: 2020
Wall and windows
Wall and windows The buildings gain their distinctive appearance from the combination of a rough aggregate surface and clean vertical and horizontal windows. Creator: Sharon Honig-Bear Date: 2020
Gymnasium The gymnasium makes a bold statement in the school's official colors of scarlet and white. At 40,000 square feet, it opened with a seating capacity of 1,500 for games and a maximum seating of 2,400. The building also included boys and girls shower and locker rooms, stage and lobby areas used for teacher stations, and a music rehearsal room. Creator: Sharon Honig-Bear Date: 2020
Trees and benches
Trees and benches Trees and benches lend a park-like feel to the open spaces between buildings. Creator: Sharon Honig-Bear Date: 2020



Gail Ewart, “Earl Wooster High School,” Reno Historical, accessed July 19, 2024,