The Board of Education passed 110 sections for Darien's five elementary schools at its meeting Tuesday night, after an enrollment update showed five more sections than the 105 projected for Oct. 1.

There are 75 more students than projected, since the elementary schools took on 62 students between June and July 31, according to the numbers presented at the meeting.

The total number of students enrolled in the elementary schools is 2,334.

Hindley Elementary School continues to have the highest enrollment, with 538 students. However, the school will not add any new sections, leaving it right where the administration projected it would be.

Assistant Superintendant for Elementary Education Judith Pandolfo said this is a very unusual year regarding the increase in sections.

"Generally, if we have one (section) go over, that's a lot," Pandolfo said. "So to have five, it's unusual."

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Pandolfo suggested some grades created a need for more sections after they were rolled up to their current grade level.

"Those grade levels, it's not an enrollment that necessarily occurred over the summer," she said. "These students, most of them, were sitting in the classroom in June."

Board Member Michael Harman asked Pandolfo if space was an issue due to the increase in sections.

"Because those numbers were up in June, they had already been looking at space," Pandolfo said of the schools' administrators. "We may have additional expenses related to more materials and some furniture because this is even beyond what we thought we'd get."

Superintendent Stephen Falcone said of special education enrollment, "We are appropriately covered with what we need based on that projected increase."

According to the information presented at the meeting, special needs students comprise 12.5 percent of district enrollment, which are 606 students in all the schools.

In the elementary schools alone, there are 213 students.

Falcone said eight more special needs students are expected to be admitted to the Early Learning Program as well, bringing that program's enrollment to 36.

Pandolfo paid homage to the elementary school principals, who she said worked hard to refine the enrollment numbers. She also said the process led them to notice unusual increases at Ox Ridge and Tokeneke in relation to previous years, which made it seem as though families are renting homes rather than purchasing them.

Tokeneke added 24 students since June and Ox Ridge added 23.

"Families usually have to bring multiple pieces of information, so very often they will bring their contract for the purchase of the house and some bills, or they bring a lease," Pandolfo said.

Clara Sartori, another board member, asked how many of these people are new to Darien.

"We're having a lot of new people who are coming from New York or other parts of Connecticut and buying in Darien," Chairman Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross said.

Superintendent Stephen Falcone added, "We found it's more outside of the country (and) places like Maryland, (District of Columbia), North Carolina."

Pandolfo said they can only report numbers and make calculations with the information they have from the families.

Regardless, the board had to vote on the number of sections due to a policy requiring it to be done by July 31.

"It is in our policy to set the extra five sections. We have to set 110 sections," Hagerty-Ross said, adding, "We've never gone back and adjusted, because you're going to have ups and downs. That's the issue. We projected some that are up and some that are down, so it would probably net out in a school; it might not net out in a grade."; 203-972;4407;