WASHINGTON — The state has given Region 12 the go-ahead to go out to bid for demolition, which is the first phase of construction for the long-discussed agriscience school.

The program will be located at Shepaug Valley School and focus on agriculture and STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. It will serve 139 students from Region 12, Danbury, Brookfield, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown and Sherman. Bethel has not committed.

Superintendent Patricia Cosentino also announced at Monday’s Region 12 meeting that the state awarded the district an additional $1.5 million to purchase furniture and fixtures. She said that money was part of the original grant, but school officials were unsure how it would be awarded.

“We were very happy to hear that,” she said.

Excluding the furniture, the school is expected to cost $29.9 million, with the state paying nearly $24 million.

It is expected to include 35,750 square feet of new construction, while also using unused space within Shepaug.

Cosentino said when they met with the state Department of Administrative Services last week, it sounded like the size was OK, but the district is waiting for the state to put it in writing.

The AgSTEM school was overwhelmingly approved at a

referendum in 2015 in all three towns that make up Region 12 — Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington — but some residents recently called for a new referendum on the updated project.

The project has since been scaled back in size and enrollment projections.

Critics of the project claim the cost to build and operate are higher than projected, putting more on the taxpayers. Supporters of the AgSTEM school see the program as a way to boost the district’s declining enrollment and offer needed STEM training.

Cosentino has said the program has gotten the needed approvals, including from voters during the referendum, and it is now a school board project.

At Monday’s meeting, she and board Chairman Anthony Amato said they were excited the school is so close to being a reality.

“This is getting more tangible by the moment,” he said.

Now that they have the green light from the state to go out to bid, demolition on the science wing and asbestos areas is expected to start as soon as school is out for the summer. Construction is set to begin shortly after, with the program planned to open for the 2019-20 school year.

“It’s moving now, full steam ahead,” Cosentino said.

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345