Durham's Kestrel Heights charter school loses appeal of high school closure

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The Kestrel Heights charter school will be allowed to operate as K-8 only.

Kestrel Heights High School will close down in less than three months. The North Carolina State Board of Education has declined administrators' appeal for a charter renewal.

The state has sent a specialist to the school to help with the transition process.

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"I'm still sad. I'm been here since eighth grade," said student Dana Gentry of the closing. "I'm not totally surprised by the news."

The class of 2017 will be the last to graduate. More than 280 students will have to relocate. Staff and teachers will have to find new jobs.

PREVIOUS STORY: State board recommends Durham's Kestrel Heights close high school - become K-8

"A lot of the teachers here, they've all become so close because they've been here for so long, especially the English teachers. They're all a tight-pack group of friends so I do feel for them," said student Chayton Fuller.

The high school's charter was revoked last month. Education official called Kestrel Heights administrators "incompetent, negligent, and an embarrassment" after 160 graduates received diplomas without meeting state requirements during an eight-year span.

A new principal discovered the problem last July and self-reported the issues.

Kestrel Heights Executive Director Dr. Mark Tracy says staff is trying to move forward.

"Obviously, we're disappointed for our (high school) students and our parents and our community, but we're really excited about the opportunity to continue a quality K-8 education," Tracy said.

The Kestrel Heights' elementary and middle schools will remain open.

Kestrel was ordered Thursday to hire an independent auditor to monitor the K-8 program.

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