Innovations High: A place to learn – and dance in the hallway

Instructors Patty Auger and Lucy Dugan dance in the hallway during Innovations High School’s Friday Kick Out concert.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

In one sense, it could be called the school of rock and roll. But a lot more is happening at Innovations High School.

Each school week starts and ends with a live concert, Kick In on Monday morning and Kick Out on Friday afternoon. The students and teachers — they call themselves scholars and advisers — who aren’t seated in front of the bands dance in the aisles and hallways. The teenagers are outgoing, greeting and starting conversations with adult visitors. Laughter and hugs fill the building on the outskirts of Reno’s midtown. It feels like a house party, and it’s hard to imagine what it was like five years ago.

Formerly named Washoe High, the school’s graduation rate was 8 percent, the lowest in Nevada. The staff members were surly and bitter, but they’re all gone now. The yearly rate has increased to 19 to 30 to 61 percent. This year’s 31 percent increase is the greatest in the district.

More than half of the 140 students are in some way involved in the music program, including Loren Guillen, who three years ago was nearly certain she would not finish school. Instead, she will graduate in March, a trimester early.

“I was at McQueen and I didn’t fit in with all those kids,” said Guillen, who has learned to play three instruments. “I basically hated school. I was ditching school and getting into fights. I like going here because I have a connection with all of these kids. We’re like a big family.”

Look for a profile of the unique school this week in Tahoe Onstage.

Related story: Innovations High School student reviews concert at The Holland Project.

Tahoe Onstage

Freshman Imani Lanier and her bandmates go to the head of the class and rock the school.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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