Letter: 'Agri-science Academy is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity'

To the Editor:

I write in response to Loy Wilkinson's Oct. 2 letter, “Proposed Agriscience program a ‘risky investment.’”

Mr. Wilkinson's claim that Shepaug Valley Middle/High School is in a "sorry state" indicates he is misinformed about the outstanding educational institution we have.

In the most recent Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing, Shepaug scored above most of the surrounding school districts in literacy and math.

Last year, the boys cross country team, boys singles tennis and girls track and field in javelin, brought home state championships.

Shepaug Dramatics consistently produces award-winning plays and musicals. This doesn't seem like a "corroded" school to me.

Mr. Wilkinson is correct that the student population in Region 12 is declining, as it is in most Connecticut districts. Annually, Nonnewaug High School consistently denies about 50 qualified applicants entry into its Agri-science program because it is full.

The proposed Agri-science Academy at Shepaug would increase our student population by allowing qualified applicants who were denied opportunities at Nonnewaug to participate in our own rigorous, hands-on Agri-science program.

I disagree with Mr. Wilkinson that the school districts in our catchment area will be “undependable sources of students.” Despite our declining numbers, Shepaug sends students to Nonnewaug that were accepted into its Agri-science program.

Every district in the state must offer eighth-graders the option of attending an agricultural or technical program, regardless of student population.

Shepaug’s Agri-science Academy will also draw students from Danbury, one of the few cities in the state whose student population is growing.

I believe the students from our catchment area (Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown and Sherman) would be drawn to the wonderful opportunities that Shepaug has to offer.

Early estimated costs to build the Agri-science Academy and the Shepaug science labs are approximately $39.5 million. The state would reimburse 70 percent of that cost, leaving taxpayers responsible for approximately $11.7 million.

This initial investment to educate our children eventually would be paid off by revenues generated by the incoming students, who come with $10,000 in tuition each year. Region 12 will eventually turn a profit.

The Agri-science Academy is a smart and worthy investment. It would provide our district stability that it currently lacks. Our young families would know their children would be able to attend Shepaug Valley Middle/High School.

The Agri-science Academy is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not only for the children of Region 12, but also for us as a community. I urge all of the residents of Roxbury, Bridgewater and Washington to vote “yes” during the Nov. 10 referendum.

Paula Conway