WASHINGTON — Shepaug Valley School’s new agSTEM academy may be designed around agriculturally focused classes, but administrators want the public to know it will teach students “more than farming.”

With state approvals finalized and construction set to begin in November, Superintendent Megan Bennett said the focus has shifted to writing curriculum for the program, which will open next year.

Students in the agriscience academy will explore four pathways with a focus on the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. These are:

plant systems

animal systems

food products and processing systems

power, structural and technical systems

During a presentation last week, Bennett said the goal is to prepare students not only for college and high-paying jobs, but for the way the world is changing “exponentially” due to technology.

“The first thing we say is, ‘How is this elevated?’” Bennett said. “We are producing the workers of tomorrow and we are producing the college students of tomorrow ... we are creating students for problems we don’t even know yet.”

Bennett included a video showing how technology has changed the way students learn and the problems they will be asked to solve, such as environmental issues, sustainability challenges and consumer responsibility.

The academy’s students from Region 12 and surrounding towns can try each of the four areas of study in their freshman and sophomore years, Bennett said. They will then choose one “pathway” to commit to their junior year that will be the focus of a required internship.

A new agriscience teacher, Lori Trovato, has been building relationships with local businesses for this part of the program, as well as preparing the curriculum for next year, Principal Kimberly Gallo said.

“The time to start actually writing the specific curriculum for courses is with the teachers who are going to teach it and with their expertise — and that is happening now,” Gallo said.

Bennett and Gallo said the agriscience piece will enhance and update curriculum Shepaug is already teaching. The new program will add to this by bringing the agriscience angle into regular courses and offering electives in agriscience to students not in the program, they said.

About 80 percent of agriscience students’ time will be spent in regular Shepaug classes and 20 percent of their time in agriscience-focused classes.

The academy is expected to include 35,750 square feet of new construction at Shepaug Valley School while using previously unused space within the school.

Bennett will hold similar talks in Region 12’s other two towns, Bridgewater and Roxbury, in the coming weeks, she said. A new section has been added to Region 12’s website about the project and will be updated as it moves along, Bennet said, including a FAQ section based on questions submitted by residents.

“We can start talking about some of the numbers coming in instead of talking about (what’s) anticipated,” Bennett said. “This is a good opportunity to talk about what is, was and what will be.”

aquinn@newstimes.com