Kestrel Heights 8th graders must now find new school

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Outgoing eighth through eleventh graders at a Durham charter school will not return to those halls after Tuesday.

Kestrel Heights School will not have a high school program for at least the next three years. The State Board of Education shut down the higher grades after current administrators found about 160 alumni from recent years received diplomas without fulfilling requirements.

The school held commencement Friday for graduating seniors while eighth graders had a graduation ceremony Tuesday morning. Those rising ninth graders and their older classmates must move to other schools in the fall.

“The benefit of this process has been that the decision didn’t happen yesterday. We’ve had some time to say goodbye, but in the actual moment, it is bittersweet,” executive director Mark Tracy said.

“It’s bittersweet saying goodbye to those eighth graders who wanted to to remain at Kestrel and continuing their education. But our goal right now is focusing that they have a quality education moving forward.”

Several teenage students said they are sad to know they will no longer be classmates with some of their friends as they attend different campuses next year.

Administrators said the school can apply to add back the grades lost this year, but must wait three years to do so.

“We feel that if we do a great job (teaching grades) K-8, our parents and the Durham community will want us to continue into the high school. But we’ve got to first focus on making sure that we continue to provide excellent K-8 education,” Tracy said.

About 760 students are currently enrolled or committed applications to attend Kestrel Heights next year. The school has open seats and is accepting additional applications for the fall semester.

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