Darien Elementary School will reopen next school year under an elementary school realignment approved by the Delavan-Darien School Board, ending months of speculation about the school’s future.
Third and fourth grades will shift from Turtle Creek Elementary to Darien Elementary for the 2019-20 school year, and 4-year-old kindergarten and kindergarten will move to Turtle Creek, which already houses first and second grades.
The school board approved the realignment Monday after voting in April to lay off 39 teachers and close Darien Elementary after the 2017-18 school year on the heels of a failed spring referendum.
The decision rippled through the school district and frustrated many people in the town and village of Darien.
Residents criticized the school board for closing the more than 110-year-old school, claiming the board wasn’t transparent about the district’s financial situation. Many said they weren’t aware the school would close if the referendum didn’t pass.
A November advisory referendum calling for the formation of a committee to explore withdrawing from the district passed handily in the village.
The group has been discussing viable options for Darien Elementary since December.
Darien Village President Kurt Zipp, who sits on the committee and has led the opposition to the closure, said Tuesday the board’s vote will ease residents’ concerns and is “a good thing for the community.”
“I’m happy the school is reopening,” Zipp said. “I think it’s because there was a lot of communication with the school board after the decision was made, that board members realized it was an important thing for the community.”
But Zipp remains skeptical, and he said the committee will not necessarily disband.
“It’s kind of like living together before you get married. Things are kind of working out, and things will be fine, but there’s not that long-term, binding commitment right now,” he said.
Tiffany Schutt, a recently appointed school board member from the town of Darien, said Tuesday the realignment proves the district is willing to partner with Darien.
“I think it will ease some of the tension and frustration,” Schutt said. “The school board is thinking about the process of where we are and how we can move the district forward in the future, and Darien is still a big part of that.”
Superintendent Jill Sorbie said Tuesday the district hopes to open an early childhood learning center for children up to age 3 at Wileman Elementary, which currently houses 4K and kindergarten.
The board has not yet voted on that proposal, but it would be a tuition-based program and would not be taxpayer funded, Sorbie has said.
School board President Jeff Scherer said he hopes the early childhood day care program will be operational by fall and that a vote on it could come in the next few months.
He said shifting students and reopening Darien Elementary shouldn’t add costs.
Scherer pointed to a lack of day care centers in Delavan and Gov. Tony Evers’ possible budget proposal establishing full-day 4K as reasons to make the elementary school shift.
“We heard it loud and clear,” Scherer said. “We’re Delavan-Darien. They’re a part of our district. We’re glad that they’re back in the fold. It’s unfortunate the way things worked out, but when we had a crisis decision to make, we just had to make it a snap decision. ... I think this is a better plan moving forward for everybody.”