Darien Superintendent proposes new school
DARIEN — As budget season approaches, Superintendent Dan Brenner has a lofty proposal: to create a new alternative high school for “square peg, round hole kids” in Darien.
Brenner brought up the idea of opening an alternative high school in town during preliminary 2017-18 budget discussions at a Nov. 22 school board meeting.
According to Brenner, the initiative is not set in stone but talks have begun as to how the school would work. The idea would be to have the school up and running by the beginning of the next school year. The school would be a Darien High School program but located at a different campus and treated as its own school, something Brenner said research showed would attract more people.
“We’ve been studying it for the better part of a year with a group of folks meeting in terms of what this might look like, where it might be,” said Brenner. “In weeks to come, we will come forward with full-blown plan for what this alternative school might look like.”
The school would serve grades 9 through 12 and would be for students who would thrive under alternative learning methods. The students would be taught in smaller classes by general education teachers and would be taught the same curriculum as the high school, but through different presentations and structure styles.
Brenner has first-hand knowledge of how an alternative school might work in Darien, having served as the principal of an alternative school in Long Island from 1993 to 2000.
Board members had several questions about the proposal — most of which could not be answered at meeting.
Board member Michael Burke asked about how students would be chosen, while Tara Ochman questioned the benefits of marketing the school as its own institution, as opposed to being a program of the high school. Brenner said the concept is still in its preliminary stages and many of the questions board and community members may have will be answered as the idea is solidified.
According to Brenner, the new school would have staffing implications but could potentially have a net-zero impact on the budget. He said more answers about the proposal would be available moving into the budget season.
“This comes nuanced,” he said. “This is not a simple task.”
The next school board meeting is Dec. 13.