Shepaug’s agriscience gets state approval
Shepaug Valley School has been approved to host the state’s 20th agriscience and technology education center.
The program will debut during the 2018-19 school year in Region 12.
The state Board of Education approved the region’s application Tuesday, Aug. 4.
The Region 12 agriscience program will welcome students from Washingotn, Bridgewater and Roxbury, as well as the neighboring towns of New Milford, Sherman, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield and Newtown.
“We were 100 percent behind this,” said Terry Jones, a state Board of Education member. “It is just a splendid opportunity for the kids of the greater Danbury area.”
“Nonnewaug has been limited in the enrollment numbers it can receive.
“It’s always exciting when kids have the opportunity for this kind of experiential learning. I applaud Region 12 for stepping up to amplify that opportunity.”
Boards of education in all covered towns support the plan and said they would collaborate, sending students to the program beginning in fall 2018.
With state approval of the program, the towns are required to also express willingness to increase the number of students being sent to Shepaug above their three-year average now sent to the Nonnewaug High School program in Woodbury.
Another condition of the state’s approval is a majority of each of the region’s towns — Washington, Roxbury, Bridgewater — must pass a referendum approving financial support of the school expansion cost, an estimated $35 million.
The referendum will be Nov. 10.
Region 12 Superintendent of Schools Pat Cosentino said the state board did not say Tuesday what percentage of the cost would be reimbursed, but she’s expecting 80 percent, a figure she describes as “the going rate.”
“I’m on cloud nine,” Cosentino said. “When kids have a passion for something they’re going to be able to succeed in life. To be able to support that at Shepaug for generations to come is wonderful.”
“It’s full steam ahead with our board, our staff and our media to get a ground swell of support, and get everyone out to vote ‘yes.’ ”
Shepaug Valley School principal Kim Gallo was asked to consider offering an agriscience program at the school in December by Bill Davenport, director of Nonnewaug High School’s program.
Nonnewaug’s program serves 23 towns. The plan is for Shepaug to absorb eight of those towns.
At the time, Nonnewaug was turning away 50 percent of the students applying for the program, according to Davenport.
It accepted 60 students out of 120 applicants for the 2015-16 school year. Agriscience programs in the 19 current centers across the state have increased by 18 percent during the last 10 years, according to state statistics.
Shepaug’s program will serve up to 70 students in grades 9 through 11 beginning in the 2018-19 school year, provided building and equipment grants are awarded by the state.
In the 2019-20 school year, it will serve up to 155 students, and in 2020-21 up to 240 students.
Enrollment at Shepaug Valley School has declined by 29 percent during the past five years, to 459 students in grades 6 through 12.
The building capacity is 800 students.