Enrollment update expected at Region 12 Ag-STEM meeting

WASHINGTON — Region 12 officials at Tuesday’s special meeting likely will update the number of students expected to attend the proposed STEM Academy.

While the meeting agenda is scant on details, Bridgewater First Selectman Curtis Read said Monday he believes the school board will provide an updated figure for enrollment.

The board already scaled back the academy’s projected enrollment in November after state officials questioned projections and construction costs, which were estimated at $39 million.

Officials have scaled back the scope of the project, bringing the proposed price tag down to $29 million.

Last month, Read said officials should consider another public referendum on the project because of the changes, which he said could increase the potential per-student subsidy that would fall to taxpayers.

Read said he is concerned about the state’s ability to pay for the project considering an expected state budget deficit of more than $1 billion in the next fiscal year. The state is expected to pay for about 70 percent of the project through bonding.

“I’ve heard that they are going to come back with a number of around 174 students, but I’m not sure how they got that number,” Reed said.

Danbury, he said, has a cap of 15 students they are willing to send to the proposed academy, while Bethel, Region 12 school Superintendent Patricia Cosentino’s former district, has yet to endorse the plan.

Costentino could not be reached for comment Monday. Board Chairman Jim Hirschfield was unavailable.

“Unless Danbury removes their cap and other towns get on board, I don’t know where they expect to get those additional students from,” Read said.

The academy is intended to train students for careers in science, technology and agriculture-related disciplines. Officials hope it will attract students from neighboring school districts, partially offsetting an enrollment decline in Region 12.

The board is expected to discuss proposed changes to the public input portion of their meetings. While details of the policy weren’t available Monday, the new guidelines were developed by a subcommittee, and the board members will consider implementing the new guidelines for a three-month trial period.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Shepaug Valley School.