Letter to the Editor: Open Choice school program — Noble thought but timing could not be worse

Like many parents of the elementary school kids in Darien, I am shocked to hear about the proposed Open Choice program to start this fall in our elementary schools.

The idea of busing Norwalk kids to our schools so that our children can “experience diversity” looks good on paper and fits the politically-correct talk but it fails to recognize the real needs of our Darien kids. Our kids have lost the normalcy of the last two school years due to the pandemic — they have endured remote learning, enormous absences, quarantines, shortage of teachers — we all know that.

Now — more than ever — they need small classrooms and individualized attention.

As it is, our children no longer enjoy the classroom of 16 or 17 children as they did several years ago. Now our classroom sizes are inevitably over 20. Then there is the battle over proposed construction of apartment buildings near Selleck’s Woods. If lost, there will be another component of overcrowding our schools. The pandemic already brought in lots of families with young kids into our community and we are fortunate to be on the receiving end of this shift — most of these parents already experienced huge classrooms in city schools and their detrimental effect on teachers’ ability to have individualized approaches.

All the experts agree that the effect of the pandemic on young children’s education will have long-term impacts and will require long-term repair. We wish it would be all over and forgotten by September but we have to face the reality of COVID-19 and its lasting impact.

Before we open the doors of our exemplary schools to kids from other towns, why don’t we assess the needs of our own kids in Darien and put their needs on the front page?

We should normalize their education first and deliver on our promise of academic success which always made Darien parents so proud — and then we can debate over expanding classrooms, stretching resources and get creative with other novel ideas.

Olga Nikolas, Darien