With one school year over and a second, also with an ongoing pandemic to deal with, Darien schools Superintendent Alan Addley is asking parents for feedback on eLearning, saying it will help with plans for the upcoming school year. That year may have school buildings open in some way, possibly closed or possibly some combination of the two, maybe at the same time, maybe at different times. School district officials just don’t know, and the decision likely won’t be their’s anyway — Addley said the state is likely to issue a mandate to school districts this summer. But whatever the future holds, district officials are trying to prepare for it with plans, even if they’re only contingency plans. Addley briefly described the planning process, both in an email to parents last week and at an earlier Board of Education meeting.
Superintendent Says Budget Cuts Would ‘Significantly Affect’ Education, Updates Parents on District News
Schools Superintendent Alan Addley, in a message to parents updating them on various developments in the district, said the budget cuts he’s been forced to recommend to the Board of Education would “significantly affect” the education of Darien students. Darienite.com has published the full message below and numbered the sections in Addley’s message to make it quicker for readers to find out more in the numbered topics below. Here are the other six topics covered in the long message:
—what the district will do in helping students better deal with concerns revolving around the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (7)
—how the district is going about planning for school reopenings and closings (6)
— how the district is regulating use of school campuses by summer school programs (4)
— regulations on other organizations may use school facilities (4)
—the coming end of grab-and-go meal distribution (2)
—summer school and extended school year plans (3)
—a short, general message with no details about graduation and moving-up ceremonies (1)
Regarding budget cuts (5), Addley said:
At the last BOE meeting, the Administration made recommendations to the Board of Education for consideration to close this gap. These included some very difficult choices that would significantly affect the quality of education.
Due to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions in place for operating in-person summer programs, Darien Summer School will be moving to a virtual platform this year. — an announcement from Darien Public Schools
While we had hoped to be able to see our DSS participants and staff in person, after thoughtful consideration regarding all aspects of our unique programming, it was decided that this would be the most feasible and safest option for everyone. Our teachers are already hard at work developing fun, interactive, and flexible programming that will fit within families’ summer schedules. Many classes will involve exciting activity kits such as the activity boxes that will be delivered to students enrolled in “Out of this World — Science Exploration” while others will involve unique opportunities such as our Quiz Bowl campers’ chance to interact and compete with students from around the country without ever leaving their home. Please check the DSS website (www.dariensummerschool.com) for more information about virtual classes including new course times and prices.
The Democratic Town Committee announced Thursday that Michael Burke and Sara Parent have been nominated as candidates for Darien’s Board of Education. — an announcement from the Darien Democratic Town Committee
“Michael brings a wealth of experience and a steady hand, and Sara brings her experience as a highly involved parent and a former educator to the Board of Education,” DTC Chair David Bayne said. “At a time when the COVID-19 crisis is testing the very foundations of how education is being delivered to our children, Michael and Sara represent the kind of thoughtful and innovative leadership that is precisely what Darien needs in order to continue providing unsurpassed educational opportunities to all of our children,” Bayne said. “Together they represent the best that Darien has to offer and our town is particularly fortunate that they have chosen to run for the Board of Education during this unprecedented time.” Michael Burke is seeking his third term on the Board of Education and Sara Parent her first.
Here’s How DHS Will Have a Graduation Like No Other Before: Diplomas Handed Out on June 11 [UPDATED]
As everyone knows, Darien High School’s graduation this year won’t be a ceremony with crowds, due to the restrictions on gatherings, but just how it would be done has been finally announced with a packet (below) emailed to students and parents on Wednesday night. Here’s how:
[See update in the bulleted, gray-boxed paragraph, below.]
On Thursday, June 11, graduation will be in two parts: First, from 8 to 9 a.m., the “Wave Through” — a parade of sorts — will go through the high school campus, with seniors and their families in cars. The cars will first go to the Middlesex Middle School parking lot, at 7:45 a.m., then proceed to the high school in a long line. Then, at various times of day from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., seniors and their families will go back to campus at scheduled times in another line of cars. At the end of the line, seniors in their caps and gowns will get out of their vehicles with their parents and be presented with their diplomas — from their parents.
Every year, the Depot Youth Center provides balloons that graduating seniors find outside (see below for details), but two other ways of celebrating graduating students are also happening this year, when the pandemic can threaten spirits and will certainly change the traditional commencement event. First, An “adopt-a-senior” program for families with elementary and middle school students has been started where those families drop off “a homemade card or sign, a flower from the yard, or a small token at the student’s home,” according to an announcement in the Middlesex Parents Association newsletter. Families who sign up are assigned a student and given an address (in an email to be sent next week). The dropoffs are supposed to take place anytime in the five-day period from June 1 to 5. (See the announcement below.)
Second, Middlesex Middle School parents can order a yard sign from the Depot for graduating 8th graders who are going on to high school next year.
Darien High School has named Maya Nalawade the valedictorian for the graduating Class of 2020 and Alexis Zitzmann as the salutatorian, DHS Principal Ellen Dunn announced on Thursday. The high school hasn’t announced plans for what kind of graduation ceremony the Class of 2020 will get during these pandemic times, but the traditional addresses made by the valedictorian and salutatorian could be done if all or part of the ceremony is online. (See below for some of what’s been announced about the graduation.)
Darienite.com found a bit of information about each student early Thursday evening (we hope to get more, later):
Nalawade, born in the United States, spent several years of her childhood in Amsterdam and then in New Delhi, India before returning to the U.S. Earlier this year she published a book of poetry, “The World is a Broken Puzzle: Exploring Identity and Belonging.” She has been editor-in-chief of the school’s literary magazine and president of the school’s creative writing club, according to the Polyphony Lit website, an online literary platform for high school students. “If she’s not writing poetry she’s usually singing, listening to anything from Bollywood to Beyonce, or watching movies (which means she’s probably watching Midnight in Paris for the 100th time),” the website said.
With about 700 Darienites unemployed after losing their jobs in Connecticut on top of an unknown number of town residents who lost jobs in New York state, the Board of Finance decided to cut budget proposals from the Boards of Education and Selectmen, resulting in a slightly lower tax rate. The new mill rate will be no more than $16.36 (for every $1,000 of assessed value), down slightly from the current fiscal year’s $16.47, an 11-cent difference. The Finance Board’s goal was to keep the next town tax levy essentially the same as this one. The Finance Board’s cuts of about half a percent to the schools budget (on top of earlier cuts that the Board of Education agreed to make) came in the face of strong objections from members of not only the Board of Education, but also schools Superintendent Alan Addley and the Council of Darien School Parents. They said further cuts would hurt the educational experience of students.
DHS Parents Association: Yard Signs Congratulated Each DHS 2020 Senior on Tuesday, More Celebrations Planned
To the editor,
We are writing to update you on the news surrounding the inaugural Senior Send-Off. Given the uncertainty surrounding social distancing policies for large gatherings, the Darien High School Parents Association (DHSPA) has come to the difficult conclusion that we cannot hold our event as originally envisioned. However, we are currently hard at work planning safe and creative ways to honor all 361 members of the DHS Class of 2020 over the course of the next month. On Tuesday, May 12, parent volunteers placed signs in the yards of each DHS senior. We are grateful to The Depot for their assistance in this project.
The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk will host a timely webinar on Thursday, May 8 at 5 p.m. focused on the current situation within which educators are working. — an announcement from the Maritime Aquarium
At a time of unprecedented challenges for teachers, the aquarium is celebrating educators the week of May 4 as part of “Teacher Appreciation Week” via daily raffles, social media shout outs and a specially-themed webinar. “Teaching during a Pandemic: a Sea Change for STEM Education and a New Role for Partners” will be hosted by aquarium president and CEO Jason Patlis and aquarium director of Education Tom Naiman. The online panel discussion will explore the challenges educators have faced since schools closed, how they’ve adapted and what is working for them, and how parents can best support their efforts. Registration is free and available on the aquarium’s website.
School buildings must be closed for the rest of the academic year to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday morning. Online teaching will continue to take place, and take-out school lunch and breakfast programs must continue, the governor said. Lamont and state education officials will discuss the decision at the governor’s 4 p.m. news briefing. A decision on holding summer school is expected by the end of May, according to the announcement. Here’s the full text of Lamont’s announcement:
Gov. Ned Lamont today announced that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he is ordering in-person classes at all K-12 public school facilities in Connecticut to remain canceled for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year and continue providing distance learning during this period.
Darien High School Is Tied for No. 1 in the United States for Math and Reading Proficiency, U.S. News Says
When U.S. News magazine recently came out with its rankings of high schools around the country and in the state, Darien High School came out tied for No. 1 for math and reading proficiency and No. 3 in the overall ranking in Connecticut. For math and reading proficiency, Darien was tied with the Julia R. Masterman Secondary School in Philadelphia as the No. 1 school.
In an email to parents on Sunday, Schools Superintendent Alan Addley told parents that “Free lunches are available to any Darien student in need starting tomorrow, Monday, April 20.” Addley also wrote that the Board of Education meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday can be accessed through Google Meet. The home page of the school district website will have a link to follow. “The administration will present its Grading and Reporting Procedures” at the board meeting. “Members of the public may still comment on the Grading and Reporting Procedures agenda item by emailing Dr. Alan Addley email@example.com or Tara Ochman firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. tomorrow, Monday, April 20,” he added.
Darienite.com received this email from the kbarbieri-AT-dariendps.org Darien Public Schools email account with an innocuous-looking link taking us to a Web page that instructed us to fill in our email password and email address in order to access three pages of “SharedFAX Documents.” We didn’t. You shouldn’t either. No one should do that. Ever.
The Bruce Museum in Greenwich is presenting online short videos and descriptions of projects kids, teens and families can do at home as you socially isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s the announcement about the program series, called “Digital Weekends,” from the Bruce Museum:
Digital Weekends with the Bruce are fun, hands-on art and science projects for you and your family. Over the next several weekends, teaching artist Grayson Kennedy and Youth and Family Programs Manager Megan Brown will lead you in an online activity based on exhibitions at the Bruce Museum. Use the linked videos and write-ups to make something fun and creative while you’re home. This week, for our first project, we will explore the artwork of L. A. Ring, whose paintings featured in the exhibition On the Edge of the World: Masterworks by Laurits Andersen Ring from SMK – the National Gallery of Denmark.
While closed to the public for now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich is posting weekly activities involving STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Math) for kids in Grades 1 through 5 stuck at home. From the museum’s announcement:
Manager of School and Community Programs, Corinne Flax has created weekly STEAM activities for families with children at home. These weekly activities will focus on basic STEAM concepts. Learners will get the chance to design, test, modify, experiment, hypothesize and much more. A little about the series, At Home STEAM Activities:
● The series is for children ranging from 1st through 5th Grades. Each activity can take as little as 30 minutes or as much as an entire afternoon, depending on the interest level of your learners.