Embracing the Transition to Academies

Beck Tate, Staff Writer

New school year, new students – 800 new freshmen adding to the ever-growing population of DHS. The size of Danbury’s largest public school has long been a topic of discussion in the district: How do we put our best foot forward and stand tall? What can we do to get kids where they need to be on time? Well, in recent months, it would seem that we’ve finally come to a satisfactory decision.

The pressure is high to set a good example for other schools and “prove to ourselves that we’re better than our reputation,” as Mr. Donovan put it. Sometimes a change is needed for that to be accomplished. Many ideas were brought to the table when considering what the next best step would be for handling DHS’ population and hallway traffic issue. In the past Mr. Donovan has tried solutions like closing down certain stairwells to force kids to spread out and use others, but there are only so many temporary solutions to such a big problem. We need something stronger, more permanent. So, adding another building to our high school seemed to make sense. It would provide more space for students and teachers alike, not to mention grab people’s attention as they’d be drawn to the clean, fresh-ness of it all, while solving population issues. But adding another building would cost a lot of money, maybe over 300k, and DPS doesn’t have that kind of money just lying around. Not to mention, where would we add this building? Another top floor? Off to the side of our original campus?

Cartus is a real estate company, owned by Anywhere Real Estate, and it’s the company that the city is buying for DHS’ new campus. Academies are places or institutions of study/training in specialized and specific fields. DHS would offer 4 academies at our original campus on 43 Clapboard Ridge Road, and house 2 at the new building, making 6 academies in total. Tentatively, the academies are set to be the Academy of Information Technology & Cyber Security, Academy of Professional & Public Service, Academy of Scientific Innovation & Medicine, Academy of Global Enterprise & Economics, Academy of Art Engineering & Design, Academy of Communications & Design, and the Academy of Sustainable Sciences. This should provide plenty of choice and opportunity for the students at DHS.

Adding not just a new building, but a new campus to DHS, officially as an academy, gives more opportunities for high school students to focus on what they want to do for the rest of their lives at an earlier time. Inside each academy will remain the fundamental school subject everyone has to learn: history, math, English. Only, the courses will be focused on what academy they have chosen – you’re in the art academy? Your history class will include historically influential art and artists. Medical? Biology is your new best friend. These academies weaves their way through the educational system we know and make them something new yet still reminiscent of traditional schooling.

Thinking about dedicating your entire life to one occupation so early on can be nerve-wracking. High school years are to find yourself and figure out who you want to be, to make mistakes and learn from them. That’s why when you’ve chosen an academy you won’t necessarily be forced to stick with it for the next four years of your high school career. You will need a reason to make the switch, something more substantial perhaps, then ‘I want to be with my friends’, but the goal is to help students find the path that works for them. Teachers, principals, and city leaders strive to help students find success in education while figuring out their passions. The goal for these academies is to help students find the best way to channel their many talents into one subject they are passionate about so they can live the rest of their life with a job they enjoy, not simply need.

Though DHS Academies is a solution to our student overpopulation issue, it does not fix our lack of teachers. Going through with buying this new campus does take away some problems, pressing ones at that, but it can also shine light on other issues that have been ignored. For instance, if DHS only has one teacher certified to teach AP Physics, it would be hard to provide access to that course in both campuses, and we’re already understaffed as is. Finding this amount of new teachers will take time, money, and lots of patience. However, it’s a necessary challenge we must face in order to push DHS students to be the best that they can be after high school.

We hope to physically be on our new campus in the Fall of 2024, and more in depth details about the academies and where we plan to go from here with purchasing a new building from Cartus. It’s change, and yes, it’s scary and uncomfortable, but it’s better to embrace it with open arms than scoff at Admin who are trying to fix this problem.