Tuesday, January 21, 2014

School Information Series: Creekside Elementary

School Type: Neighborhood School

Creekside is an elementary school in the Durham Public School system serving South Durham.  To attend Creekside, you need to either live within their neighborhood zone or apply for a transfer. Anyone can apply for a transfer within the district by writing a letter if they have a good reason such as being close to childcare or work.  I have heard of people having their transfers being denied and approved, so just keep that in mind.

Creekside Elementary is a large elementary with between 800 and 900 students serving K-5, so I didn't quite know what to expect when I showed up for the tour last week.  I immediately noticed how nice the facility was.  It is a fairly new building, opened in 2005, and all of the hallways are nice and light.

The tour started with a hallway where most of the kindergarten and first grade classrooms were.  The school is laid out with the K-2 classes on the ground floor where all of the classrooms have bathrooms, then the older grades upstairs, and the 5th grade in the portable classrooms outside.  We were able to walk in to several of the kindergarten classrooms and took a look at what was going on.  The kindergarten classrooms had around 20 students with a teacher and assistant.  They said that they shared assistants in the older classrooms but the K classes each had a dedicated assistant.

I was pleased with what I saw going on in each of the classrooms.  As a former teacher, I'm a little picky about the type of instruction, but I could see the rich instruction in each of the activities I observed and that made me happy.  They do a literary technique called "Take 5" (I think) where the kids rotate though literacy centers so that they have time to work in small groups with the teacher, the teacher can conduct individual lessons and assessments, or they can work independently.  In some of the classes I observed, there were learning support teachers and other specialists working in the classroom.  I thought that was nice because the specialists could pull small groups of kids to work with them within the classroom setting and they wouldn't be picked out as kids that struggle because this portion of their extra help was all done within the classroom.

We were also able to see samples of the kids work in the hallways.  Above the samples were posted the objectives from the Common Core Standards that each represents.  Each classroom is very focused on making sure that each of the objectives in the Common Core are met by the students, but the teachers still have some creativity to teach the standards in the methods they deem most effective.  They also have a behavior management strategy that emphasizes and rewarding positive behavior.

After our tour of the classrooms we went to see the specials.  The kids have, I think, 8 specials, that they rotate though one per day.  These specials included art, music, math enrichment, counseling, counseling, instruction from a gifted instructor, and PE.

We also saw the gym and cafeteria where the kids eat.  The younger kids eat lunch at a different time than the older ones which is nice, but it does lead to a fairly early lunch for the younger ones.  Recess is once a day, and kindergarten has their own dedicated playground.  There are two other playgrounds for the other grades on the campus.  School starts at 9 and finishes at 3:30.  About half of the kids ride the bus and half are dropped off and picked up by parents or carpools.  The kids are guided to the buses by lots of teachers and adult helpers and the buses are labeled by color instead of number so kids can easily find their correct bus.

Demographically, Creekside is a Title 1 School which means that they have a certain percentage of the school that qualifies for free and reduced lunch based on income level.  At this school, the percentage is 40%.  The Title One designation means that they qualify for extra money from the state for additional resources such as teaching assistants.  The school is 40% white, 24% african american, 24% hispanic, and 7% asian, so the diversity in each classroom is great!

Website: http://www.creekside.dpsnc.net/

**Keep in mind, all of this information was what I learned in the tour, and I did the best I could to keep all of the facts straight. (This was my 5th school tour of the year.)  If you have any corrections for me or any other information you'd like me to include.  I got a good feeling from the tour, but I was only there for a few minutes.  I would love to hear some comments from those of you who've had kids there.

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