Education

Schools in southwest Durham are overcrowded. Here is the potential fix.

“Trust us,” said Durham Public Schools Superintendent Pascal Mubenga. “We’re going to do this very carefully.
“Trust us,” said Durham Public Schools Superintendent Pascal Mubenga. “We’re going to do this very carefully. DPS

Two Durham public schools that are near each other, Creekside Elementary and Githens Middle, are each more than 200 students over their capacity, with projections showing things getting worse.

On Thursday night, the Durham school board heard some potential solutions from the staff.

Several schools in southwest Durham are overcrowded, meaning schools that pull from areas adjacent to Creekside, at Ephesus Church Road, and Githens, on Old Chapel Hill Road, are also facing challenges.

But Creekside and Githens have the most immediate problem.

Creekside is nine classrooms over built capacity, with 2020 enrollment expected to grow by more than 20 students.

Githens is 10 classrooms over built capacity. Of the six elementary schools that feed into Githens now, five are at or over capacity.

Mobile classrooms can’t be added at either school because the core population is maxed out, said Chief Operations Officer Julius Monk. The schools have already added early lunch periods and shortened lunch periods to accommodate all of the students already there.

But there are schools near Creekside and Githens that have room.

Creekside can send some students to Parkwood Elementary, which pulls from an almost overlapping area. And Githens can send some students to Brogden Middle, whose attendance area forms a wedge that goes into the Githens area.

Also, Lakewood and C.C. Spaulding elementary schools would feed into Brogden rather than Githens under the plan. The Forest View Elementary area north of and containing Cornwallis Road would feed into Brogden and south of Cornwallis would continue feeding into Githens.

Matthew Palmer, director of strategic planning initiatives, said the staff would recommend that if these plans are implemented, the district would grandfather in current Creekside and Githens students and their siblings.

When planned Elementary Schools C, at Scott King Road, and F, at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Roxboro Road are built, that will also ease the situation at Creekside, but construction has not been approved yet and the need at Creekside and Githens is dire now, Palmer said.

Site C is expected to house about 600 students, and Site F 800.

Public hearing set

The board set a public hearing on the proposed remedy for 4:30 p.m. Nov. 7. The site has not been determined yet because the board is searching for a site that will hold more people than its chambers.

“We don’t want to rush anything because we don’t want any unintended consequences,” Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said. “Trust us. We’re going to do this very carefully. We’re going to work with all our stakeholders as we’re moving forward.”

Board member Matt Sears said his daughter was one of the elementary students expected to feed into Brogden rather than Githens, but he wasn’t worried because he’d researched the school and found it to be a good one.

Board member Minnie Forte-Brown agreed. “People are happy with Brogden,” she said. “Happy to be moving.”

Susan Kinghorn, though, said the plan would separate her son from his Forest View community. Her son, she said, is one of only 14 children from Forest View who would be reassigned to Brogden, and he is the only one in his grade that would be reassigned.

“This is a negligible benefit for Githens, but it would be devastating to our family,” Kinghorn said.

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