Board of Education Approves School District Applying to State for Minimum Education Days This School Year

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The Darien school district eLearning program is expected to have some real-time, online teaching starting next week, and state officials seem to be saying that waivers won’t be required if districts don’t have 180 days of teaching in school buildings.

That was some of what the Board of Education was told at a special meeting Monday night that was broadcast on Youtube but with the meeting room not open to the public.

The meeting was originally called primarily to get the board’s approval for schools Superintendent Alan Addley to apply for the waiver. But even as the meeting was taking place, messages were coming in from the state Department of Education that seemed to indicate that the waiver was unnecessary.

On Friday, Addley had announced that he would not apply for the waiver after getting advice from the education department that concerns about not being able to educate students in special education adequately would mean that the state wouldn’t allow online education to be counted as part of the legal mandate for 180 days of schooling.

The school district’s initial plan was for a two-week school closure, which could be done without any waiver (because the district could get in 180 days by the state deadline of June 30). The district’s online education plan was labeled “supplemental” to the regular education it provides, and at the urging of the state, it didn’t have a real-time “synchronous” element to it, with teachers interacting with students instantly rather than through messages like emails (“asynchronous” online teaching).

Addley said he had further communications with the state education commissioner and with the school district’s lawyers, and in the meantime, Gov. Ned Lamont declared that all school districts should cancel classes in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Addley said that the state-ordered closure means that many districts won’t be able to get in 180 days of classes in school buildings.

But with the new information from additional conversations, and with state education officials becoming more lenient with regard to approvals, Addley decided that he should ask for the waiver, if only to be on the safe side.

So on Monday night, Addley asked the Board of Education to approve his applying for the waiver, in case it turned out to be necessary, and the board voted unanimously to do it.

The district’s remote learning program, eLearning, can be accessed from a “tab” (a link) near the upper-righthand corner of the Darien Public Schools website. Parents can learn more about the program there and students can use it for links to access online material.

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