Durham school holds final high school graduation

(Michael Hyland/CBS North Carolina)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – One student described it as “bittersweet” as families celebrated during Friday’s commencement ceremony for Kestrel Heights High School, the last celebration of its kind, now that the state has ordered the charter school to close.

“I think now that the actual facts have been out there, even though we didn’t win the appeal, we still went out there and said what was actually the truth. I think it is possible they could re-open the high school,” said Ian Campbell, who graduated Friday.

Administrators at Kestrel Heights reported to the state that 160 graduates from 2008-2016 received diplomas without actually fulfilling the requirements to graduate. The school lost an appeal to the state Board of Education to remain open. Kestrel Heights still will be allowed to operate for grades K-8. All of the administrators responsible for the diploma issue no longer work at Kestrel Heights.

“I’m hoping that Kestrel learns how to move on and maybe even have a better middle and elementary school,” said Courtney Thomas.

Several people who spoke during Friday’s commencement commended the students for persevering through a difficult year as they fought to keep their school open.

“You’re hawks. Hawks soar high above the sky, high above it all,” said Glenna Boston, vice president of the school’s board of directors.

Principal April Goff invited Teji Kimble to speak to the last class to graduate. He was one of the graduates of the first class in 2008.

“I think it’s an appropriate end,” said Ian Campbell of Friday’s ceremony.

Since learning the high school would not be able to operate in the fall, administrators have been working with families to find students in grades nine through 11 other schools to attend.

The state’s decision means Kestrel Heights must remain closed for three years. It’s unclear what will happen after that. Some graduates were hopeful that one day the school may re-open again.


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