Durham school bucks over-crowding trend with K-8 pilot plan

DURHAM, NC (WNCN) — We hear a lot about crowded classrooms and new school construction to meet the demands of a booming population.

But – a school in Durham is bucking that trend.

How –and why teachers and parents and think it could help their students.

“I’ve been going to this school since kindergarten,” said Cameron Crutchfield and 11 year old, 6th grade student whose dad teaches at the school.

And little did Cameron Crutchfield know that he’d still be going to “Little River School” as a sixth grader.

“I’m like, wow! I get to stay at this school forever,” Cameron said.

Well… through the eighth grade anyway.

The school added sixth grade to its existing elementary grades this year… And will add seventh next.. And eighth the year  after.

“’We’ve got the room for one,” said Principal Cory Hogans.

Hogans says declining enrollment at the rural school made it the perfect place to pilot the K-8 model in Durham Public Schools.

That creates a very strong community feel. In terms of the transitions that children naturally go through as they move from one developmental stage to another, it allows the program to be more responsive to that,” Hogans said.

But Hogans points out developmental stages mean middle schoolers and elementary students are different.

He says policies and character education plans are in place to prevent issues like bullying… Something we asked parent Miranda Freeman about

“I don’t have any concerns. From what I have seen, the grades stay within themselves,” said Miranda Freeman the parent of a 3rd grader.

“it’s pretty good so far,” said Evie Hallmets, an 11 year old, 6th grade student, whose mom teaches at the school.

“I was a little happy about it and a little sad because sometimes we will have stuff that other schools won’t have and we won’t have stuff that other schools have, like band and all that,” Cameron added.

Little River will not have its own athletic teams. Instead, it will partner with Lucus Middle School for sports.

Of the 407 students in the school, 34 are sixth graders — they change classes and have two teachers.

“It seemed to lend itself to a little more intimate setting for that middle school transition for sixth graders,” said Leilani Owens a sixth grade math and science teacher.

A transition that Hogans says sometimes leads parents to look at options other than middle schools.

The district sees a slight dip in enrollment numbers in the elementary to middle school transition.

“At our program, our parents know us and we know their children and so that uncertainty is taken away,” Hogans said.

“I think it’s going to make it a much more seamless and less stressful transition into those grades,” said Miranda Freeman the parent of a 3rd grader.

“We’re just one big family,” student Evie added.

The district looked to similar set ups at schools in Wake and Chatham counties.

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