Changes come to Danbury’s new Career Academy


City of Danbury

Rendering of the Danbury Career Academy at its new location.

Aahil Nishad, Staff Writer

Plans for the construction of the new Danbury Career Academy have been changed, mainly with a decision to construct the combined middle and high school in the former Cartus building to be a part of the Danbury Public Schools system, located at 40 Apple Ridge Road, Danbury, CT.

The Requests for Qualifications & Proposals on the Danbury Career Academy introduces that “The City of Danbury has the opportunity to purchase the building and site and intends to renovate and construct additions to repurpose the space for educational use to support a Grade 6-12 school and Board of Education central offices and administrative space.”

In 2021, the Danbury Career Academy was announced with the purpose of accommodating the rapidly-growing student population of Danbury, while also aiming to provide a new state-of-the-art option for students that would offer a specialized learning environment depending on a selected career pathway.

Danbury High School Principal Dan Donovan praised the program, “There’s gonna be different interests for everybody. We’re going to look to come up with a whole bunch of different academies and pathways that hopefully everybody will be interested in.”

New plans for the Career Academy showcase the building split into a middle school in the North wing of the building, and a high school in the South wing. The program would hypothetically produce six different academies for students, and each of these academies would provide several corresponding pathways and specializations for students to explore and center their learning around.

Donovan talked about the purpose, “Seven different academies, with the hope of taking [a] larger school of 3400 kids, and breaking it down into academies of interests that kids can choose based on what they possibly might want to study in the future.”

Previously meant to be constructed at the Summit, a combined office, retail, and residential complex on the western side of Danbury, the location of the Danbury Career Academy changed due to changes in pricing. The project, originally predicted to cost $99 million, was estimated to cost $144.5 million as prices changed in early February.

Instead, the negotiation with Cartus comes with a total construction cost of $84 million, which is much more reasonable considering the potential for new amenities and constructions, coming out to about $338 per square foot, a $95 decrease per square foot, for approximately 270,000 sq. ft. of furnished, unoccupied office space.

Additionally, Mayor Dean Esposito claimed in an announcement video that “the options are tremendous, [the City of Danbury] will actually own the property that the building sits on.” This is different from the previous agreement with the Summit, in which the Danbury Public Schools was to pay a recurring fee for use of the building.

In regards to budget, the Danbury Career Academy is certain to have an impact on city funds, although there are still hopes that the previously agreed-upon state grant will be able to cover 80 percent of the cost. Donovan discussed the price, stating “This is going to cost a little bit of money, but it’s still educating the same number of kids. Now we’re hopefully going to do this in courses that [students] want to take.”

The building consists of four floors and will be able to accommodate 1,400 students, a large expansion to the capacity of the school system, especially with the currently overcrowded high school environment. Donovan referenced this fact, “Overcrowding was one of the reasons for [the academy], but rather than just having us ship a thousand kids to another building, it is now thematic.”

Upon entry into the academy, new freshmen will enter an Exploration class, in which they will be able to decide which academy they want to attend for the rest of their high school career. The ability to potentially switch academies remains unclear, although the purpose of the academy is to rather introduce students to potential career paths. Sophomores will then enter a Foundations class, in which they will learn general topics about their selected academy, while juniors and seniors will lastly pursue a specific pathway within their chosen academy.

The new building will specifically be home to the various STEM and Business Academies, while other academies will be hosted within Danbury High School. Rather than having the Career Academy restricted to just the new building, the system is hoping to extend the program to the high school as well. Thus, starting in 2025, students should be able to partake in the new style of learning at Danbury High School and at the new Career Academy.

When leaving the Academy, Donovan hopes students will “attend college if you want to, but also obtain a job that is of high demand, and high wage, which is key if you want to keep living in Fairfield County…one of the most expensive counties in the world.”