As University of Nevada, Reno, students move onto campus for the start of the school year, some Las Vegas parents say they’re feeling reassured about the accommodations that have been made for students since an explosion destroyed two campus residence halls.
The July 5 blast caused by a malfunctioning boiler left Argenta and Nye Halls unlivable and led the university to enter a $21.67 million agreement to house 1,300 displaced students in the Sky Tower of Circus Circus Reno for the year. A state fire marshal’s investigation into the cause of the explosion is expected to be released Thursday.
At least 900 students moved into the newly christened Wolf Pack Tower over the weekend ahead of the start of the Nevada FIT program for freshmen. Another 400 are expected before the start of classes next week.
Parent Lisa Mayo-DeRiso of Las Vegas said that despite her initial reservations when her daughter was assigned to Wolf Pack Tower in August, she was impressed with the organization of move-in day, as well as the efforts to turn the hotel into a collegiate residence.
‘Skeptical at first’
“I was skeptical at first, but I think they’re going to be fine,” Mayo-DeRiso said.
She added that one of her primary concerns was whether the university shuttle would get her daughter to her early morning classes on time, but so far the 3 minute ride to campus has not been an issue.
Mayo-DeRiso said she found creative options for storage under the large bathroom sinks, and that the views of the mountains on the 22nd floor of the tower are unbeatable.
After housing assignments were sent out, the university said it received 89 requests from students wishing to move out of Wolf Pack Tower and onto the main campus. Of those, 40 were granted, while another 30 were rescinded by students who decided to stay after all.
Another 39 returning students were moved into the off-campus tower to replace those who left.
The converted hotel room building has been outfitted with amenities like additional washers and dryers, and converted rooms on each floor to function as communal study areas.
Las Vegas resident Christa Casillas said she was initially worried about her son starting his freshman year at UNR after reading about the dorm explosion over the summer. But after she flew with her son to Reno over the weekend, she said she was impressed with the community that had grown around Wolf Pack Tower.
She said the rooms are more spacious than a typical dorm, with larger beds and only two students sharing a bathroom. Casillas said the additional security measures, like around-the-clock security and a police substation, were especially reassuring.
“They’re going to have additional focus on those students,” Casillas said. “He’s going to be fine.”
Kailyn JBeily, a resident adviser in the new tower, said that since move-in day on Saturday, the atmosphere has slowly settled down.
The day was not without hiccups. Lines for the elevators extended around the block for a time as 984 students moved in through one front door, JBeily said. Though lines for the elevator can still get backed up, she said she expects that to improve as students begin their staggered class schedules.
JBeily said she was a week away from moving into another campus residence hall when she was called up from the alternate RA list to move into Wolf Pack Hall, which has two resident advisers per floor.
Since then, she and other RA’s have been allowed to put up decorations like door tags to make the building feel more like a dorm than a hotel. JBeily said the primary differences between Wolf Pack Tower and other dorms is the sheer number of people living in the building, as well as the distance to campus, which she said isn’t too bad.
But she said she understands parents’ concerns about the situation because her own parents were worried about her decision to live at Wolf Pack Tower.
“No one wants to send their 17- or 18-year-old to live in a casino, but they should know we have 24/7 security, multiple checkpoints where students show their ID’s, parking garage security and bike parking security,” JBeily said. “It’s mostly about reassuring parents. The kids have found the food and the arcade.”
One remaining concern on parents’ minds is recovering personal items left behind in the destroyed dorms.
The university has previously said its reunification efforts were ongoing through the summer, but parent Chris Floyd said the process has hit snags.
Floyd said his son, Raymond, was not allowed back into his room to collect his items, including clothes, bedding and some personal items. Instead, university officials collected the items and placed them in boxes for students — but Floyd says he hasn’t received his son’s boxes.
“As parents we’re frustrated,” Floyd said. His son chose to move off-campus for fall.
Medications and electronics were among the priority items that students listed for university officials to recover from the buildings, though others also left behind the bulk of their clothes.
University spokesperson Nicole Shearer said some rooms close to the explosion site were covered in debris, making retrieval more difficult.
Shearer said the university has only two remaining students to ship items to, but that about 25 others submitted claims for missing or damaged items.
Any students who believe they have missing items can reach out to the university for information about the claims process.