Get ready for back-to-school

Jul. 29, 2013 @ 02:02 PM

As with our year-round schools earlier this month, Durham Public Schools is preparing for a “SmoothStart” to the 2013-14 school year for the rest of our schools. City of Medicine Academy, Clement Early College High School and Middle College High School begin classes Aug. 8, and finally our traditional-calendar schools welcome students on Aug. 26.

The beginning of a new school year brings with it wonderful opportunities to make a difference in the lives of our students. It takes exceptional staff, informed parents and involved community members to create the best possible arena for learning. Fortunately for us, Durham has all of those elements. When the school bells ring we will be prepared and focused on providing every child with the highest quality education.

Each year brings with it a new bunch of bright young minds, and we are thrilled to have them, as well as our returning students, back on campus. To help ease the transition back to school, we have updated the Durham Public Schools SmoothStart website,  On this site you will find open house dates, meal prices, and other resources including school supply lists.  Here are a few tips that will help you get ready for the new school year: 

• If your child is not already registered for classes, please call the school as soon as possible so that your child will be ready for class on the first day of school.
• If you have a kindergartner attending DPS for the first time, attend “Countdown to Kindergarten” on Friday, August 2, 5:45 – 8:00 p.m. at the Museum of Life & Science.
• Now is a good time to determine if you qualify for free/reduced lunch and complete the forms.  The forms can be found at
• Will your child need before- or after-school care? Community Education provides these services at all elementary sites in Durham Public Schools. Registration information can be found on the Before and After School Care website at, or you may call (919) 560-3816.
• Bus information will be available from schools at open houses and on the SmoothStart website.  If your child will attend a new school, need bus transportation for the first time, or need any changes in transportation arrangements, please contact the school your child will attend.
• The state’s last sales tax holiday (the General Assembly is ending it after this year) is Friday through Sunday. You will be able to purchase school supplies, clothing, sports and recreational equipment, computers and tablets without having to pay sales taxes. More details are available at the Department of Revenue’s website:
• Finally, all of our students starting sixth grade this year must get a Tdap booster shot (for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis). By state law, any sixth-grader that hasn’t received this immunization by Sept. 24 will be kept out of school until this has been done. You can contact your child’s doctor to obtain the vaccine, or call the Durham County Department of Public Health at (919) 560-7608. Uninsured or Medicaid-eligible students may receive the vaccine at no charge.

Throughout the school year, we will keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in Durham Public Schools: through the DPS website,, our Facebook presence at, on Twitter at @DurhamPublicSch, and on cable television through DPS Channel 4.

Despite a state education budget that, to put it mildly, is not what we had hoped for, we are looking forward to a school year full of growth and opportunity for every child. We will work with partners across our whole community to challenge all of our students, keep them in school, and support them every step of the way toward graduation. I look forward to welcoming our children back to class and continuing our journey.

Dr. Eric J. Becoats is superintendent of Durham Public Schools. His column appears the last Tuesday of each month.