Danbury City Council to consider $99 million career academy

Photo of Julia Perkins

DANBURY — The City Council is expected to consider a June vote on the proposed $99 million career academy during a virtual meeting on Monday.

This new school serving students in middle and high school would be built within three “pods” of the Summit, a mixed-use development in the 1.2 million-square-foot former Union Carbide world headquarters on the city’s west side.

The project has been largely popular among education and city officials and is seen as a way to help address the growing school enrollment, while providing students with opportunities to study various career fields and pursue internships.

A virtual meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday evening where public comments submitted from residents will be read. To submit feedback about the academy, residents should email comments@danbury-ct.gov with their full name and address by 5 p.m. Monday. The meeting will be streamed on YouTube.

The council will meet virtually at 8 p.m. to consider the mayor’s request for a vote to be held on the project on June 15.

Typically, the project would go to referendum, but the governor’s executive orders related to the coronavirus pandemic allow the council to approve the borrowing package itself. The council will decide Monday whether to hold the referendum or vote itself.

District officials have said they expect 1,400 students to eventually attend the academy, with 1,040 high school and 360 middle school students. Superintendent Sal Pascarella has said the district would phase in students and staff.

Eventually, the school would offer six academies focused on professional health services; information, cybersecurity and technology; scientific innovation and medicine; global enterprise and economics; art, engineering and design; and communications and design.

School administrators have been inspired by an academy in Nashville as they craft their plans. The Nashville school has raked in $8 million in fees by hosting other districts interested in the concept.

It’s one of two ongoing projects to address enrollment growth, with construction expected to begin this summer on an annex to Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School.

Danbury is racing to meet the state’s deadline for a grant that would cover 80 percent of the academy’s cost. Plus, $2.4 million of city costs would be covered by money the council approved last year for school projects.

The city is required by law to submit its application by Oct. 1, but the state has asked for a draft by Sept. 1, so that any necessary tweaks can be made.

This would be the first time Connecticut would reimburse a municipality for a school project that uses the “design-build” method. City officials have said the project may become a model for other communities.