Darien High School’s 2021 graduation ceremony combined congratulations on getting through high school during the COVID-19 pandemic with the regular high school graduation themes — life advice, thankful appreciation and assurance that the graduates have what it takes to succeed in the future. The 321 graduating seniors had a sunny late spring day and blue sky to accompany speeches filled with hope and optimism. In a speech that focused on gratitude, Valedictorian Eleanor Chase offered the audience a cookbook-like “list of ingredients you’ll need to make a high school graduate,” including “one awkward fourteen year old,” 30 teachers, two bus drivers and a supportive family. “Put the 14-year-old in a brick building for four years at approximately 70 degrees: decorate with cap and gown.” She added: “But, between all the congratulations and cords and handshakes of today, I hope we all remember everything else on that ingredient list.”
No new COVID-19 cases have been found in tests of any students, teachers or other staff in the Darien school district, Superintendent Alan Addley reported to parents on Friday — but masks will still need to be worn in schools, he said. State education and public health officials continue to mandate masks in schools, and Darien must follow their directives, Addley said in his regular email to parents and staff. First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, in her regular COVID-19 Code Red message to the town, also noted the continued state mandate on masks for schools and also for municipal offices. She also said that on May 19 the state was dropping any requirements for masking outdoors and mandates that businesses must require masks indoors. “Masks must still be worn on public transportation, in doctor’s offices hospitals and nursing homes,” she said.
Theatre 308 is proud to present the hit Broadway musical Something Rotten! Memorial Day weekend at Darien High School. For the first time in school history, the DHS’s spring musical will take place outdoors in the courtyard. — an announcement from Theatre 308
The show goes up for live, in-person performances on May 27 to 30, 2021, with all shows starting at 7 p.m.
Set in the 1590s, Something Rotten tells the tale of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, who are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rock star known as “The Bard.” When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing, and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical. But amidst the scandalous excitement of opening night, the Bottom Brothers realize that reaching the top means being true to thine own self, and all that jazz.
Lindsay Smith, a Darien High School student and EMT with Darien Emergency Medical Services, has been awarded the Claes Nobel Future Female Leader Scholarship. Of nearly 600 applications, Lindsay was one of 10 students who were selected to each be awarded a $1,000 scholarship, which was by the National Society of High School Scholars (a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 and not related to the National Honor Society). — This article is based on an announcement from the National Society of High School Scholars. The scholarship was established to encourage and empower young women to assume future leadership roles in their higher education, careers, and communities and to become mentors for the young women following in their footsteps. Lindsay is a nationally registered EMT and volunteer in Darien’s Emergency Medical Services group, Darien EMS Post 53, the only high school student-run EMS program in the U.S.
She spends countless hours there each month, including multiple 24-hour first response shifts and 48-hour second response shifts.
Several parents of students, backed up by support from school parent-teacher organizations, have told the Board of Education that the school district needs more extensive efforts to teach kids about making schools more welcoming to minorities and teachers need to know how to handle cases of bigotry. “Look back at all of the awful, hurtful and despicable instances of racism that have occurred in our schools and act forward in ensuring that our teachers are equipped and have the resources and training in knowing how to have these difficult conversations with our children in the classroom,” Belinda Fang of Beach Drive said. Some of the parents indicated the recent vandalism at Holmes School, where a swastika was found, alarmed them. Others brought up recent violence against Asian Americans around the country. “Not enough of us know what to say or even what to do, but we know that silence cannot be the solution,” Fang said.
Darien High School came out tops in Connecticut in the latest U.S. News & World Report high school rankings, and the school tied for No. 1 nationwide in “math and reading proficiency.” The magazine ranked the school 201st out of 17,857 U.S. News looked at across the nation, including 205 in Connecticut.. The magazine has six factors in ranking high schools besides math and reading proficiency (which accounted for 20% of the overall ranking scores). The biggest factor is “college readiness,” which accounts for 30% (Darien ranked 6th in the state; 539th nationwide).
All Darien High School students aged 16 and up can now register for the outdoor vaccination clinic in the parking lot of the former Lord & Taylor store, Darien Health officials announced Tuesday. Registration was offered last week to Darien High seniors for the same clinic dates: May 1 and May 22 (both Saturdays) from 1 to 4 p.m. The appointment time selected for the first vaccination will be the time the student will be scheduled for the second, on May 22. The announcement came from Alicia Cassuci, the school district’s director of nursing services and town Health Director David Knauf. When Darien teachers were given vaccines at Saturday clinics, enough of them suffered so many side effects that three schools had to be cancelled for the following Monday. Full Text of the Announcement
This announcement was emailed to Darienite.com at 10:01 a.m., Tuesday:
Dear Darien High School Families,
We are thrilled to announce, in collaboration with the Community Health Center (CHC), a Pfizer COVID vaccine clinic has been scheduled for Darien High School students.
Darien High School seniors can now register to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on May 1, and the second dose on May 22 at the parking lot of the former Lord & Taylor store in Stamford, Darien officials announced. “We anticipate opening the registration link to all students over 16 years of age or older by next week,” the announcement from schools Nursing Director Alicia Casucci and town Health Director David Knauf said. In a separate announcement, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said Darien has had 58 new cases during the two-week period since April 2. “We are tracking information about folks who are fully vaccinated who then contract COVID,” Stevenson said in her regular, weekly COVID-19 update. “Only one such case has occurred in Darien so far.”
Five more individuals in Darien Public Schools have COVID-19, the school district announced Friday night, resulting in a total of 15 quarantines at Darien High School. Also, Darien Health Department released its COVID-19 update showing 28 new positive cases in town from April 2 to 8, but no new hospitalizations or deaths (the complete 10-slide report is at the bottom of this article). The one person at Tokeneke School who tested positive for COVID-19 was last in the building on April 1, and that resulted in no quarantines. Four of the five new COVID-19 cases at the high school, resulting in 10 other quarantines of people deemed to be in close-enough contact with them. Two of the people who tested positive for the coronavirus were last in the school on April 2, and the two others were last there on Tuesday, April 6.
Julie Droller, principal of Hindley School since the summer of 2019, has been appointed by the Board of Education to the new position of director of elementary education for Darien Public Schools, the district announced Friday. Droller was appointed in a unanimous vote by the board when it met Thursday night. She will continue as principal of Hindley through the school year, then take to the new new job on July 1. She was director of elementary education in Westport Public Schools from 2014 to 2018. Droller was interim principal at Hindley for a year, starting in August 2018, before she was named principal.
A total of 63 people in the Darien school district — students, staff or both — were quarantined after eight of them tested positive for COVID-19, district officials announced late Thursday night. The people quarantined include 34 (with five people testing positive) from Darien High School; one from Middlesex Middle School (who tested positive); and 21 from Tokeneke School (which had two people testing positive). The announcement from Schools Superintendent Alan Addley and district Nursing Director Alicia Casucci was received by Darienite.com at 9:15 p.m.
The people testing positive at Darien High School were last in the building April 1, 6, 7 and (in two cases) Thursday, April 8; the one at Middlesex on April 1; the two at Tokeneke on March 31 and Thursday, April 8. Before the Thursday night announcement, the school district said on its website that as of 10 a.m., Thursday, there were 216 school district community members in quarantine, including 26 testing positive for COVID-19. Twelve hours later, at 10 p.m., the “dashboard” page on the website was updated to state that there are now 34 people associated with the district that have tested positive and 248 in quarantine (see image, below).
Be careful on spring break, but just in case, schools will be on remote learning, Schools Superintendent Alan Addley said in a message Thursday afternoon to parents and staff. A survey of the district’s staff showed that so many would be traveling over the spring break (Monday through Friday, April 12 to 16), that they would have to quarantine themselves when they get back — so the district can’t find enough replacements to hold classes inside school buildings. So remote learning will take place from April 19 to 23 (Monday through Friday), the week after spring break. (Friday, April 23, is a professional learning day for teachers at the high school.)
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson also issued a COVID-19 update on Thursday in which she said there have been 66 new cases in the last two weeks and Darien’s test positivity rate is about a percentage point above the state’s. Addley pointed out that even though the governor has removed mandates for quarantining after out-of-state travel, health officials at the local, state and federal level recommend it, and the school district wants it.
Four students or staff in Darien Public Schools tested positive for COVID-19, the district was informed on Wednesday, and contact tracing resulted in 10 others being told to quarantine themselves for 10 days, district officials said. Three of the four people who tested positive are from Darien High School, the other from Middlesex Middle School, and all 10 of the others quarantined are from the high school, according to the announcement sent Wednesday night by Superintendent Alan Addley and district Nursing Director Alicia Casucci. Anyone in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 was told to quarantine for 10 days from the time of contact and to get themselves tested for the coronavirus and have their family members tested as well, the announcement said. Recent similar announcements:
Thirteen More COVID-19 Cases in Schools Announced Monday and Tuesday, Total of 71 New Quarantines (Tuesday, April 6)
COVID-19 Found in Four More Individuals in Darien School System, They and 39 Others Quarantined (March 28)
Eight Separate COVID-19 Cases Result in 94 Quarantines at Darien High School, Hindley School (March 25)
Full Text of the Announcement
The email Darienite.com received was sent at 9:30 p.m.:
Dear Parents and Community Members:
Today, April 7, 2021, the Darien Public Schools District COVID Response Team was notified about four (4) individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. The affected individuals have been instructed to remain home in self-isolation for ten (10) days from the date of their positive test. All family members have also been instructed to self-quarantine and get tested.
In the past two days, 13 people in Darien Public Schools, either students or adult staff, have tested positive for COVID-19, and a total of 71 people have had to be quarantined for at least 10 days, school district officials have announced. The vast majority of positive tests, nine, came from students or staff at Darien High School. One came from Middlesex Middle School, three from Hindley School and one from Royle School. On Monday, seven people in the district tested positive, resulting in new quarantines for a total of 46 people. Five of the positive tests were of Darien High students; one from Middlesex; two from Hindley and one from Royle.
Darien High School, Middlesex Middle School Closed Monday Due to Teacher Absences; UPDATE: ROYLE, TOO
UPDATE: Add Royle to the schools closed today, according to a 6:04 a.m. message from the superintendent of schools (full text below). A day after almost 700 Darien school teachers and staff received their second vaccine shot, and with a higher-than-usual number of district staff and students under quarantines, a “high number of secondary school staff absences” has left the district unable to open Darien High School and Middlesex Middle School on Monday, Superintendent Alan Addley announced Sunday evening. Elementary schools will remain open as usual, the superintendent said in a message to families and staff emailed to Darienite.com at 9:35 p.m.
There will be no remote learning or sporting events on Monday, and the school day will be made up at the end of the school year, the same way a snow day would, Addley said. “Given the number of secondary school staff illnesses and the District’s inability to cover classes and intervention services, the high school and middle school will be closed tomorrow,” Addley wrote. The number of positive tests for COVID-19 among school staff and students, and the quarantines of anyone near those who tested positive rose significantly in late March.
Vaccines: Saturday is Jab Day for Teachers, Town Hall Continues Shots, Town Hopes to Organize Vaccines for Students
Teenagers aged 16 and up can try to get a vaccine appointment now or as soon as they can, but town officials hope to organize a student vaccine clinic for late April or May, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said in her latest COVID-19 update to the town. Schools Superintendent Alan Addley, in his COVID-19 update to parents and district staff, said the governor and state Department of Public Health have asked vaccine providers to wait until the secon half of April to schedule clinics specifically for high school students. With anyone aged 16 and older now eligible to get the vaccine in the state, Stevenson said in her Thursday message, “There are over 1 million people in this expanded age group so please be patient as you seek vaccine appointments.” Stevenson reported that the town has had a “significant increase” in pandemic cases over the past two weeks, with 101 new cases (one hospitalized), and 3.95% of town residents testing positive for COVID-19 (which is a percent lower than the state’s rate — 4.45%). As of Thursday, Stevenson said, there were 1,397 total cases from 885 unique households.