DARIEN — Darien students tend to excel in many areas. However, students across the district have been lagging in one particular area lately: attendance, namely in the days leading up to February break.

On the Tuesday before Darien’s break started, 334 students were absent districtwide. The next day, 714 students were out, including around 10 percent of students at the high school. Those numbers don’t include early dismissals.

The issue became so pressing, Superintendent Dan Brenner brought it up to the Board of Education Feb. 28.

“Clearly the day before is going to be a big day,” he said. “There’s no avoiding that. 714 is too high and I’m not sure it’s going to get better.”

More Information

Absences prior to February break

2015: 277 students out two days before break, 479 out the day before

2016: 233 students out two days before break, 523 out the day before

2017: 334 students out two days before break, 714 out the day before

Darien’s winter break this year was unusual from years past, as it began on a Thursday and extended to the following Tuesday. Usually, the district gives students a full week off, but this year, they opted for a different break in order to follow the regional calendar.

Brenner suggested revisiting the idea of returning to a full week. When students were given a full week, absences on the Friday before break were still high, but hovered around 500 students across the district.

“You have to start questioning the educational impact of what we’ve done by following the regional calendar,” he said.

Brenner said going back to a full week off would add an extra day to the end of the school year, but the district could also allow the break to fall during Presidents Day, a national holiday, so the full week only subtracts four days from the school calendar. Westport, Greenwich and New Canaan follow similar calendars, he said.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata