Watching as the school year begins

Jul. 12, 2013 @ 02:07 PM

The school bell will ring Monday for Durham’s year-round schools, kicking off the 2013-14 school year. It will be a much smaller group of students boarding the buses and packing lunches than when traditional schools open their doors in August, but for the first time, this group includes some of Durham Public Schools’ older students.

DPS is re-opening the former Chewning Middle School as the School for Creative Studies, DPS’ first year-round option to serve high school students. The School for Creative Students is a 100 percent lottery school that will be open to sixth- through 12th-graders. Three hundred sixth-, seventh- and ninth-graders will walk through the door on Monday.
Chewning was one of the system’s more challenging schools, struggling with test scores and a diminishing number of students as parents increasingly sought other alternatives for their children.
The School for Creative Studies offers an alternative for the scores of students turned away each year from Durham School of the Arts, particularly those who are interested in filmmaking and digital media.
“We want to foster an environment where students and teachers feel empowered, an environment that fosters creativity so that students have the opportunity to express themselves whether it’s writing or filmmaking or some other form of expression,” Principal Renee Price told reporter Jamica Ashley earlier this week.
It’s a vast change in focus. We hope that change will lure more students to the school, and that it will find success in its reinvention from a troubled middle school.
We also hope that students attending the other year-round programs have positive experiences with DPS. Much like the Chewning-to-SCS transition, the system, once again, appears to be at a crossroads in defining itself. There’s restlessness among Central Office staff, and the board was divided in recent discussions over creation of a single-gender school. DPS is working to figure out how to co-exist with the proliferation of charter schools. The state legislature is changing the landscape of public education across the state that will require school systems to change in myriad ways.
Here in Durham, we need to have these students succeed, not just for the health of our school system and but for the well-being of our community. We need to be able to attract residents and businesses. We need to have graduates who are ready for the job market or college.
The kindergartners who walk into the halls of learning at DPS today will leave the system as the Class of ’26. In the intervening years as they journey from learning about colors to learning about calculus, the school system and Durham will continue to change and adapt.
It will be a vastly different world they will be entering. It’s in our best interest to make sure they are prepared.