The Durham Community School is a K-8 school in Durham, Maine and is part of RSU 5. The 5-year-old building houses 400 students who are taught by 34 teachers and 8 educational technicians. They have a 26% free and reduced lunch rate and a 17% special education population.
Walking into this beautiful school, you automatically feel a sense of community. The heart of the school is the main lobby which is surrounded by all of the specialists’ rooms. All of these rooms have spaces which are covered with post-it notes with students’ names on them. The “Hero of the Day” award is noted on a post-it for each class in each special. This daily recognition of a job well done has become part of the positive culture of Durham Community School. Each of the wings that branches off of the Main Lobby leads to a different grade level.
The grade levels meet on a regular basis to celebrate the great things they are doing in their class and school. “The kids are known here,” says Principal Will Pidden, “we have good individual knowledge of each and every child. That is one of the benefits to being a k-8 school.” As the students move up through the grades, they have the opportunity to become independent thinkers and learners. By the time they get to the 6th grade, the students are leading their own parent-teacher-student conferences. They are also engaged in collaborative problem solving. The kids have a voice in finding solutions to challenges they face on a regular basis.
The staff at Durham Community School have high expectations for their students. This is visible just by looking at the stained glass artwork above classroom windows and doors. The stained glass demonstrates what things they are going to be covering in that particular curriculum. For example, above the wall on the high-tech science lab, you see single-celled amoebas, electricity, DNA strands, microscopes, and more! Students are given the opportunity to learn in different environments as well. Just off from the science lab, there is a door that leads to a science lab ON THE ROOF of the school! Back on the ground they are building a natural playground, they have a low-ropes course, vegetable gardens, and many trails that parents and students help to keep clean so students can enjoy learning outside.
Another interesting feature about Durham Community School is the fact that every child has a front row seat in their classroom. When designing the school, research showed that the closer the students were to the teacher, the better they could hear, therefore, the better they performed in class. Because of this research, every classroom has a built-in amplification system so no matter where a child is in the room, the teacher can be heard just as well as if they were standing next to each and every student.
Engineering can be found in every grade – including kindergarten! Each of the grades has an engineering project that they complete each year. They work closely with the Engineering Programs from the Boston Museum of Science. These students may be from a small community, but the staff at Durham Community School makes sure they have access to the world!
Contact: Principal Will Pidden and Assistant Principal Hiram Sibley
654 Hallowell Road, Durham, ME 04222 207-353-9333