Reno’s Davidson Academy, for gifted and talented, will open online school for students across the nation

January 13, 2017 – by Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

The Davidson Academy, Reno’s renown public school for the gifted and talented, will begin a full-time, online school for students across the nation and in Nevada.

The Davidson Academy, located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, will begin its online instruction in the fall, for the start of the 2017-18 school year.

“We are hiring. We are hiring teachers. We are hiring IT professionals,” said Colleen Harsin, director of the Davidson Academy, now in its 11th school year. “We have consultants we have been working with over the past several years to build and grow this option.”


Currently, attending the Davidson Academy is a full-family commitment. Parents must move to Reno if they want their children to attend even though tuition is free when they get here.

“This (online school) should make opportunities to those nationwide, who are not in a position to move here,” Harsin said during an broadcast of the Nevada Newsmakers show.

The online school will charge a tuition of about $15,000 for out-of-state students. Although all students must meet high qualifications to enroll in the Davidson Academy, it is still considered a public school in Nevada, so it’s online version is free to Nevada residents, Harsin said.

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

“There is that academic qualification that is necessary (for potential students),” Harsin said. “And that is also a part of what makes us unique as a public school in Nevada. So if you are living in the state of Nevada, the online school would be free of charge. It is still a public option. If you are living out of state, the top price would be $15,000.

“We have positioned ourselves competitively and to avoid any version of sticker shock,” she said. “We look at what other schools, that are currently available, are doing. But then we also decided to aim for that $15,000 (tuition) but also be very flexible in terms of financial aid options. In fact, families can apply for financial aid prior to even doing the application, so they know where they stand in terms of tuition.”

The Davidson online school will be for students in the 9th to 12th grades and will include face-to-face digital communication with teachers and other educators at the Reno academy, Harsin said.

The Davidson Academy is currently accepting applications for its online school, Harsin said. Applicants must be 12 to 15 years old as of Sept. 30, 2017.

“We are going to continue with the brick-and-mortar school,” she said. “It is definitely our flagship and it is very important to us. And we hope that the school will continue to grow.

“But there is certainly room in the market for another option for these students that is online — high quality education that does involve face to face, albeit in an online class — interactions with age peers rather than just tearing through the curriculum at their own pace where they are still isolated,” Harsin said. “We want to create a sense of community with peers (in our online school) that we have at the in-person version of the school.”

An education at the Davidson Academy can open up immense opportunities for its gifted and talented students, Harsin said. They online school will duplicate the successes of the brick-and-mortar institution, she said. Current Davidson graduates attend Harvard, Stanford, the University of Nevada medical school and smaller liberal arts colleges.

“One of the themes is ‘Think Big'” with all of the Davidson programs and services,” Harsin said. “So most certainly, I do expect that (with the online school).

“The Reno school will remain a fairly-small school,” she said. “It is a very tight-knit community and that is actually one of the benefits of that school. Certainly that community and that tight-knit nature of the interactions with these students will be maintained in the online environment when we still have class sizes that are small. It is an intense critical thinking type of environment with a high level of engagement among the students.”

Potential online students be warned: There are no multiple-choice tests at the Davidson Academy.

“We don’t do multiple-choice tests, which when you think about it, the implications of that, are huge,” she said. “You are really getting students to put it out there in terms of how they think and how they interact with one another.”

That thinking extends to math and science as well as the humanities, Harsin said.

“For the most part, yes, we like to know how they are thinking,” Harsin said of the students. “So as our mathematics instructor will say, ‘Show me your prowess in the language of mathematics. I want to know how you got there, where you went awry, if you came up with another way to get there.’ But we want to see. So it is not just in the humanities or the languages. It is across the spectrum. So whether it be science or English, we want to see how they are thinking, we want to engage them with one another as well as with their instructors.”

For Nevada residents, both options – attending either the online or Reno school – are free, and there is no application and assessment fee.

However, out-of-state students must pay a $100 application and assessment fee. If accepted, out-of-state students must also pay tuition.

The application deadline is March 1, 2017. If space remains available, late applications will be considered until April 15, 2017.

Note: Some information in this story was taken from the Davidson Academy web site.

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