Tuesday, January 14, 2014

School Information Series: Pearsontown Elementary

School Type: Durham Public School Year-Round Magnet School

Pearsontown is one of the three year round public elementary schools in Durham County. To attend it, you not only but get a spot in the lottery but be in the zone. As a mom in South Durham, this would be our only option for year round, so I went to the tour to find out more.

Pearsontown had an incredibly well organized tour. They gave out folders with the tour schedule, commonly asked questions, aflyer celebrating their test scores, a handstamped notepad to jot down thoughts, and a thank you note written by a student. They also played a promotional video where the principal spoke about their mission, several teachers talked about their approach, and children professed their love. It was a very impressive presentation, to say the least. It was clear from the get go, they everyone truly does have "Pearsontown Pride". One of the reasons for this is that Pearsontown says they have the highest scores of all the public elementary schools in Durham, and these are all also higher than the state average.  I learned a couple things during the informational session at the beginning. Pearsontown is considered a magnet only because of it's calendar. They start in mid-July, have fall break in mid September, come back in mid-October, have a three day Thanksgiving break, and winter break starts mid-December. They come back in January, break again in late March, back in April, and the last day of that year is in June. This means that contrary to a common misconception about year rounds, they do in fact have a summer break, just not one that is three months long. 

Regarding their lottery slots, they had the most of any school last year, with 320 applicants listing it as their first choice, with 141 spots available. (Keeping in mind that they do, like all the elementary schools in the lottery, have a sibling preference policy, so not all of those spots are available for a family new to DPS.) However, that is expected to change this year, as all magnets are considered equal. Instead of being able to apply for your top traditional calendar magnet as well as a year round magnet, you will have to choose your top pick out of both categories. This should mean that the numbers will be lower, because the story is that in past years people would get in to Pearsontown as well as a traditional magnet, and hold their spot, which seemed to be unfair. When someone declines a spot, a new student is drawn from a pool of the remaining applicants. There is not a waitlist, as is done in some charter schools. Additionally, if you attend Pearsontown and move out of the zone, you can finish out your year but are not, obviously, able to reapply. You may only attend the year round you are zoned for. To be sure what neighborhood traditional school and what year round you are zoned for, check out http://tinyurl.com/dpsschoolzone.

The daily schedule begins begins between 8:30 - 9 with morning work. In the morning they tackle language arts, including phonics and writing. Lunch is at 10:45, which seems terribly early, but is mostly in line with other schools, since the kindergartners go first. Recess is afterwards, and lasts around 20-25 minutes. Their playground is only for kindergartners, which is nice. However, all 6 K classes are outside at the same time, which means around 140 kids are playing in the same area. We toured the playground during recess and while it was busy, there was supervision and I didn't see any bullying. After outside time, there is more language arts education and then specials. At Pearsontown these include physical education, music, art, media, computer lab, and science and last 45 minutes. Around 1:30 there is corrective instruction and enrichment which is where they go over what's already been taught. Children who have therapy or are in the exceptional program do that at this time. (However, he gifted program doesn't start until 1st grade.) At this time there are small groups and a play center offered. Math starts at 2, where children are grouped in small groups again according to ability, but start the year as a whole class until ability is determined. The last thing of the day is snack - this was troubling to me, because with such an early lunchtime, I would think the children would be hungry much sooner than 3.

There is no grade for homework in kindergarten, but completing the work is expected. Homework isn't typically given until around the fall break, so that kids can get used to school.

Regarding behavior, they use a color system, where children can go back and forth, instead of getting into trouble and staying there all day. A sheet detailing behavior is sent home everyday so parents know exactly what happened. Children can earn things as a reward for actions and displaying good character. 

Pearsontown certainly is a high performing school, and seems to be a great choice for parents seeking a year round education. 

Photos:


(Kindergarten classroom)


(Kindergarten playground)


(sign for classroom that is nut free-each classroom has its own allergy policy)


(hallway)


(first grade room)


(first grade poster)


(first grade schedule-kindergarten is similar)

1 comment:

Christy Bruce said...

I'm SO glad you guys are posting about Durham Schools! My son is in preschool and has 1 more year before starting kindergarten in 2015. He will be 5 and wouldn't turn 6 until May which is about the end of the school year. Do you think that is about the right age for kindergarten? Pearsontown IS in our area, but I'm not sure I'm sold on year round schooling. I agree that 10:30 is awfully early for little ones to be eating lunch, shouldn't that be a morning snack time? Well I hope you'll keep posting about more schools, and I look forward to reading about it! Thanks :-)

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