A Darien committee researching whether the village should withdraw from the Delavan-Darien School District might disband, depending on a school board vote scheduled in February, a village official said.
Village voters in November handily approved an advisory referendum that asked if the committee should be formed in the wake of Darien Elementary closing. About 28 village residents attended the first informational meeting of the committee Dec. 3, Darien Village President Kurt Zipp said Monday.
Zipp said the committee’s future will largely hinge on two items: a school district administration proposal and a resolution guaranteeing a long-term commitment to the village.
As previously reported by The Gazette, school officials are proposing establishing a daycare and educational program at Wileman Elementary next year for children up to 4 years old. The program would shift 4K through second grades to Turtle Creek Elementary and third and fourth grades to Darien Elementary.
Officials say the tuition-based program ideally would be self-sustaining from tuition revenue, not taxpayer money. Business Administrator Anthony Klein said Monday the program could lead to reopening Darien Elementary for the 2019-20 school year.
The school board is expected to vote on the proposal Feb. 11. Zipp said village residents will meet after that to decide their next move.
But Zipp said residents are asking for more than reopening Darien Elementary. They also want the school board to approve a resolution guaranteeing a “long-term” commitment to the village.
“Ideally, we would like to see the commitment say the only time Darien Elementary would be closed is if there was no need for an elementary school in the Delavan-Darien School District,” Zipp said.
Zipp said the resident group likely would disband if the school board approves the daycare program and a commitment resolution. Reopening Darien Elementary without the long-term commitment, however, could spur residents to continue meeting and researching options for a charter school in the village, Zipp said.
Administration officials said Monday they were hesitant to recommend such a resolution to the school board.
“Eventually, you have to determine whether or not the building is meeting your needs,” Interim Superintendent Jill Sorbie said. “Twenty years from now, that building (Darien Elementary) might be crumbling, and we can’t promise that we would be able to buy land in Darien. For us to make a promise into the future forever is not something I would encourage the board to make.”
Zipp, who said he is not seeking re-election to the village board so he can focus on Darien Elementary and the committee, said the school district is “doing a super job of educating kids.”
He said residents just want a voice in the district and want to ensure continued educational opportunities in the village.
“We feel like the education that our school district’s children are getting is great,” Zipp said. “Our test scores are up. We’re as a school district doing better than Elkhorn or Williams Bay or Lake Geneva. It’s not like we’re a failing school district. We just need to have part of that in our backyard.”
Zipp said Darien residents will meet the third week in February at the Darien Senior Center to discuss the next move.