New home sought for Fitch Academy
DARIEN — The Fitch Academy is once again searching for a new home.
According to Planning and Zoning Commission officials, the school district and owners of the Post Road property that would have housed Darien High School’s alternative education program this coming year could not come to a lease agreement.
A new location on Thorndal Circle, owned by the Nielsen Company, is now being considered. The report about the site received a positive review by the commission during its Tuesday meeting.
The program requires 2,500 to 2,800 feet of space to house up to 30 students. Mike Lynch, the district’s director of facilities, said the new location will be 3,250 square feet and is slightly larger than the previously planned location.
The Fitch Academy is currently being held at the Darien Library, according to Lynch. The library was originally thought to be a good spot as well.
“For a number of reasons, we went through the whole permit process and couldn’t close the deal,” he said.
The program had 12 students in its first year and is planning to expand to 25 next year. There will be the equivalent of four full-time staff members working at the school.
The Thorndal Circle location has a school kitchenette area, a large group instruction area and two classroom areas. There are also handicap accessible bathrooms.
“There’s really no exterior changes to the property, everything is interior,” Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsberg said at the meeting.
According to Ginsberg, the program will be on a portion of the second floor of the new location. The alternative schooling program will follow regular high school hours as well as the school district schedule.
“We will also be installing our badging system like I use to get into the school building,” Lynch said.
The staff will have badges that operate from 7 a.m. to around 4:30 p.m., and students will have badges that operates during normal school hours. The students will be transported to the school by bus or their parents. Some semiors could be allowed to drive themselves if permitted by staff and parents.
“It sounds like a better location other than the delay,” John Sini, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said.
The new location is off the main road and within walking distance of the library. “It’s a better deal for the kids and the staff,” Lynch said.
Before the program can be set up at the Thorndal Circle property, however, the Nielsen Company must get a sprinkler system installed. Once it is installed and approved by the fire marshal, furniture can start being moved in, Lynch said.
Should the new location be approved at Planning and Zoning’s next meeting on July 31, the plan is to have the building ready by the start of the school year.
“We’re trying to open it up this September,” Lynch said.