School for Creative Studies breaks the box

jalexander@newsobserver.comDecember 11, 2013 

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— At the start of each school day, students at the new School for Creative Studies check out a MacBook Pro.

It is a requirement for the creative classwork they do.

The school’s arts and design program emphasizes media and communication arts and graphic and architectural design.

Student drawings and other artwork cover the school’s hallway walls.

Students in one class design houses on their MacBooks.

Half the students in another class write their own song and record it in their classroom studio. The other half creates a music video, while three other students practice creating the music video’s choreography outside.

And in the class next door, students are creating a weather forecast, while two students are redesigning the library to become what they call an all-digital “cybrary.”

But these creative classes and electives aren’t the only classes these students take. Each student is required to take math, language arts, social studies and science. However, you may see a social studies class writing a novel, or students in a math class writing an essay on how they came up with their answer.

The school’s vision is “There is no box.” Its mission is “creativity, communication and collaboration.”

The school is trying to do things the Durham Public Schools has not done before, principal Renee Price said. So far, she said, it has been working out.

“Parents love the school,” she said. “We get calls about three times a week from parents telling us their child loves school.”

The former Chewning Middle School on Red Mill Road is DPS’ latest magnet school. It opened in July. It is a year-round school, serving sixth, seventh and ninth grades, with 100 students in each level. By 2016 the School for Creative Studies will serve grades 6-12.

Feeling connected

During a tour of the school, Price greets every student she encounters by their name.

Every student.

“That is one of the most important things I feel you can do as a principal,” she said.

She said that students should feel connected to their principals and teachers.

Only five students from the former Chewning Middle School remained at the School for Creative Studies. Each student had to go through a lottery. Two of those students are ninth graders, Shenayah Hart, and Tania Padron.

Hart, 14, who wants to be a graphic designer, said she applied for the School of Creative Studies because she liked the thought of coming to a new school and being the first graduating class. She wants to be an example for those younger than her.

Padron, 14, who wants to be an FBI agent, said she wants to be the first one in her family to graduate from high school and the new school is helping her to accomplish that goal.

“We didn’t really have a lot of homework and Chewning, but here we have a lot,” Padron said. “The teachers are energetic and help you to understand the work. You learn more.”


Each teacher at the school is certified in the subjects he or she teaches, according to Price. They make the school what it is with their creative instruction and have a joy for coming to work every day to help the students become successful, she said.

“I would like to see true trailblazers,” Price said. “For me it’s not about accolades. It’s about the kids coming in every day and having a great experience in every single class.”

“The district and board has been very supportive,” she added. “I can’t say enough about all the support we have received. This is just another great option.”

School board chairwoman Heidi Carter is impressed.

“The School for Creative Studies offers amazing opportunities for students interested in various design areas and has successfully attracted a diverse student body,” she said. “The families and staff who are at the school seem very excited about their work and studies. This school is another example of how DPS is a leader in innovative school programming.”


Alexander: 919-932-2008

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