Students of Gardnerville Elementary School returned from the dog days of summer on Monday to find a fundamentally different school.
Where once had stood their gymnasium and office now stretched a paved entrance to a bright, brand new building - approximately 17,800 square feet of classrooms, a multipurpose room and front office.
Behind the building lay a new playground. Blacktop so new it had luster in the morning sun. Freshly painted hopscotch courses beaming like rainbows.
"As of late Tuesday, we had 15,000 square feet of new sod down in the back," said GES Principal Shannon Brown. "There's a lot of excitement about the new playground."
School District Project Manager Scott McCullough was helping direct traffic from the street into the new entrance. He said six classes would use the brick Heritage Building while renovations wrapped up in the 100 hall.
"It's not only the students who were surprised," he said. "There were a lot of staff members who were gone all summer. For them, it's an instant transformation. It's more amazement than excitement right now."
Kayne Smallwood, 6, was starting the first-grade.
"I loved it," he said of the $7 million remodel. "It's so new. I like everything."
Classmate Richard Borgzinner, 7, said he thought the gym would be a little bigger.
"It's not as big as I thought, but I do like the playground," he said.
Of course, the first-graders had other things on their minds besides the remade campus.
"I'm looking forward to hanging out with friends," said Richard.
Across town at Douglas High School, new seniors Leticia Montes and Melissa Scaramella were hanging out in the commons awaiting a schedule change.
"I mostly didn't want to wake up this morning; my summer's not over," said Montes. "But it is my last year, and that's pretty cool to think about. After this, it's the real thing."
"It's my last first day of high school," added Scaramella. "I know the year will go by so fast, but it will be nice to graduate and move on with life."
The 16-year-old, a young senior, was looking forward to special events for the graduating class this year.
"I'll probably miss it when I'm older," she said.
DHS Principal Marty Swisher was gearing up for some big changes, not least among them the $17 million remodel scheduled to begin next summer. Construction is expected to continue each successive summer until 2015, when ninth-graders will return to the facility.
"We know the main gym will have some renovations over the summer," he said. "It's going to be huge. There are going to be a lot of positives."
While the school's physical properties will be altered, its intellectual environment will be changing as well. DHS staff members have been tasked with rolling out Common Core State Standards over the next few years.
"There will be significant changes not only in assessments, but in instruction," Swisher said. "We really want to be preparing students for the 21st Century and for life outside of high school."
Swisher was eager to receive last year's Adequate Yearly Progress report under No Child Left Behind. Although the Nevada Department of Education has received a waiver from the federal mandate this year, Swisher said he will still strive towards 100 proficiency in all subpopulations.
"The message I'm getting is that we're moving in the right direction for kids," he said.