This school year, Reno welcomed its newest charter school, the Honors Academy of Literature.
The Academy got its start as an idea on a napkin just a year ago, and has since transformed into a bustling school of 130 students right in the heart of the Riverwalk District.
"It has been a year of a lot of hard work, and hoops to jump through, and challenges to face and overcome," HAL founder Andrea Morency said, "but now that we have students here it's really all been worth it."
Morency and a friend came up with the idea for the school while they worked toward their doctorates in education at the University of Nevada. A year later, that idea became reality. It is a school devoted to all the tenets of education they say are most important to child development: emphasis on individual growth in each subject, linking lessons to real-world situations, and making sure the kids have a hand in their own educational process.
"There is a lot of freedom in how we develop our curriculum," HAL teacher Chris Mitchell said.
Walking through the Academy, the love of books is apparent. There are books everywhere-- in the library, classrooms, even lining the hallways. Bookcases in stairwells and hallways hold shelves of literary options that are free for the students to pick up and read, or take home, whenever they feel like it.
And it's not just books in the hallways. There are also a lot of students. That's because--like in a high school or university--these elementary and middle school students switch classes depending on their level of development.
"In this environment, [my son] is going to be fostered as an individual learner, not as a learner in a group of learners," said Jennifer Tucker, mother of a sixth grader at the Academy.
Regardless of age-- the students will take classes according to their abilities, and when they master the new skills, they move up. That can happen at any point during the year. They also take electives of their own choosing, in subjects ranging from French and home economics to U.S. government. Even the parents have requirements for volunteer hours each quarter.
"This is definitely an untraditional model of education," Morency said. "It has been challenging for some of our students and some of our parents to challenge their ideas of what school looks like. But that is what I created. I created a school that I would want to send my kids to."
The Honors Academy of Literature is a public charter school, so tuition is free. They are still accepting new students. For more information, call the school's office at (775) 737-4084, or click here.
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