Earl Wooster High School

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.

Images

Map