DANBURY — Voters on Tuesday approved a $208 million bond referendum to build a new Career Academy aimed at offering specialized learning pathways for middle and high school students in the district.
Voters approved the referendum with a vote of 2641 – 433.
The academy, which will be located in a former office building on a 30-acre property at 40 Apple Ridge Road, will have enough space for about 1,100 high school students and 360 middle school students.
Total cost of building the academy is estimated at $164 million, with the State of Connecticut reimbursing 80 percent of the cost.
In a Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Superintendent Kevin Walton thanked the community for coming out in support of the referendum.
“The Board, the team and I are very excited to hear the news last night that the referendum passed successfully,” said Walton. “We’re really onto something special.”
The school, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024, will include six academies and up to 24 career pathways. The academies include pathways that emphasize business, science and biomedical training, informational technology and game design, architecture and engineering, communications and broadcasting, and civil and public service, including education, law and hospitality.
According to a presentation given to the Danbury Career Academy Task Force in May, students in 9th grade will start off taking an exploratory course focused on digital and financial literacy, teambuilding and research into potential career pathways, and will have the opportunity to attend a career exploration fair and visit at least one college. The students will choose a particular pathway in the spring of 9th grade, and take progressively more specific courses in their field of interest as they move toward graduation.
The students will graduate high school with either a certification for a particular industry, credits toward a college degree, a license or a certificate of having completed an apprenticeship.
Dr. Kara Casimiro, Danbury’s Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, said at the Board of Education meeting that the district was partnering with groups to acquire curriculum and other resources for the academy, and that the Career Academy Task Force would focus at the next meeting in September on how best to staff the building.
In addition to the $164 million for the Career Academy, the bond includes $43.9 million that will go toward accreditation for Danbury High School, modifications to comply with ADA, replacement of the roof at King Street Primary School and expansion of classroom space.
Several parents spoke at the Board of Education meeting in favor of the Career Academy, but also warned that the district and the city needed to make sure to give the academy the resources it would need in order to function.
Two parents said that the district and the city needed to better fund the existing schools as well as the Career Academy. They also said that the district needed to do more to address the overcrowding in the district – not only in the middle and high schools, but also the elementary schools.
Danbury Democratic Party Chair Roberto Alves, a father of two children, also said that the Board of Education needed to make sure that there were enough resources allocated to the Career Academy in the future. He said that other schools in the district were in desperate need of funding for basic supplies and repairs.
“This bond is a good start, but it’s only a start in addressing the challenges,” he said. “Now that the bonding is done, I hope to see everybody here actively advocating for the correct level of resources to run that career academy efficiently, and more importantly, effectively.”