Three Ways to Show Appreciation for Graduating Darien Students, Even If They’re Not Your Kids

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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.

Maya Nalawade Alexis Zitzmann DHS graduation 2020

Darien High School Names Valedictorian, Salutatorian for Class of 2020 Graduation

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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):
Maya Nalawade

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.

Board of Finance Cuts Tax Rate Slightly After Paring Down Spending, Education Cuts Debated

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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.

DHSPA closeup volunteer with Senior Send-Off sign 2020

DHS Parents Association: Yard Signs Congratulated Each DHS 2020 Senior on Tuesday, More Celebrations Planned

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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.

Maritime Aquarium teacher appreciation week

Maritime Aquarium Hosts ‘Teaching During a Pandemic’ Webinar and Salutes Teachers This Week

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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.

Hindley School 4-27-16

Governor: School Buildings to Stay Closed for Rest of School Year

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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 entrance

Darien High School Is Tied for No. 1 in the United States for Math and Reading Proficiency, U.S. News Says

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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.

Darien Public Schools

Superintendent: Starting Monday, Parents Can Pick Up Free Lunches for Any Darien Students in Need

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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 aaddley@darienps.org or Tara Ochman tochman@darienps.org by 4 p.m. tomorrow, Monday, April 20,” he added.

Digital Weekends Bruce Museum

Online Activities and Projects You Can Do at Home, from the Bruce Museum

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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.

Bruce Museum STEAM activity

For Kids in Grades 1 to 5: Bruce Museum Has At-Home STEAM Activities You Can Find Online

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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.

Webinar College Planning April 1 2020

Webinar: Academics and College Planning in Today’s New Environment

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In a live, online presentation, the founder and CEO of Carnegie Prep will discuss how families navigate the changing world of academics and college admissions amid school closures and standardized test cancellations. Starting at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 1, Lynn Carnegie will discuss the importance of creating a plan for each student, from focusing on academics, online learning, and structure right now to preparing for the SAT, ACT, AP Exams, and Subject Tests this spring and summer. The event is sponsored by the Depot, Darien Youth Center and requires online registration. Register here and take a brief survey to help Carnegie tailor her talk to address your child’s situation. You will receive the link the our webinar upon confirmation of the online form.

Shark Maritime Aquarium

Presenting the Maritime Aquarium Online: Including Live Q&As, Streaming IMAX Movies

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The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is offering special online ways for guests and educators to still connect and learn during the current COVID-19 time of closure, including live Q&As with staff as well as streaming IMAX movies. — an announcement from the Maritime Aquarium

On March 17, the Maritime Aquarium began offering live Q&As with members of its Animal-Husbandry team at 3 p.m. each day on the Aquarium’s Facebook page. Each session will mainly focus on an animal or topic shown via recorded video, but questions can be about any related Aquarium subject. Questions can be submitted any time between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. via the Aquarium’s social-media pages – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and then live on Facebook during the 3 p.m. “Watch Party” webcast. “We very strongly feel the need to make our resources available to our guests, members and schools, even though we are required to be apart,” said Aquarium spokesman Dave Sigworth.

Schools’ Remote ‘eLearning’ Program Starts: Superintendent’s Suggestions on How to Start

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Darien Public Schools on Tuesday started the remote, online eLearning program for students while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 epidemic, and the superintendent of schools has announced to parents and students how they can get prepared this day for when the program becomes mandatory on Wednesday. The full text of the announcement is published below, and below that the video of Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, which included some discussion of the eLearning program. Superintendent’s Announcement: Full Text
A link to this statement was emailed to district parents at 10:23 p.m., Monday:

March 16, 2020

Dear Families,

At the Emergency Board of Education Meeting this evening, the Board approved the administration’s request to submit a Waiver Application to the Connecticut State Department of Education. If you were watching this evening, perhaps you noticed that we received word during the meeting that the Connecticut State Department of Education is now planning to reduce the reporting requirements and is considering eliminating individual district applications for 180-day waivers. Things seem to change daily in this public health crisis.