Local News

Danbury, Region 1 projects on school grant priority list

The School Construction Project Priority List Review Committee has met to review the 2021 priority list.  There are 15 projects slated for funding.  Among them is the Ellsworth Avenue School Annex in Danbury. 

The total estimated cost is $9,6 million, with nearly 64-percent state reimbursement.  Danbury would receive a $6.1 million grant to go toward the work at the City-owned Osborne Street facility.  It's adjacent to Ellsworth Ave School and is meant to alleviate severe overcrowding. 

The annex would house kindergarten students and provide a permanent home to pre-k students, some of who are currently learning in leased space.  The students will enter Ellsworth through a new connecting corridor allowing students access to core spaces, such as the media center, cafeteria and gym.  The proposed work calls for 7 classrooms with age-appropriate bathrooms, office space and a reception area.  The second floor will include meeting space for the Early Childhood staff. 

Additional parking spaces will accommodate the added staff.  Hazardous material in the Annex will be abated, and a fire suppression system will be added.  A new elevator will connect the first and second floors, making the facility ADA-compliant. 

Another project is partial state reimbursement for Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Region 1.  The new commercial equipment would serve the expanding Farm-to-Table program.  Industry approved machinery and safety equipment would be purchased, along with equipment necessary for the school's existing greenhouse. 

The project cost is just shy of $320,000.  The state will provide 80-percent reimbursement, with a $255,000 grant.  Region 1 plans to fund the kitchen alterations themselves and is not requesting a school construction grant for that purpose. The district's request for equipment to support the Agricultural Education Program has been programmatically approved by the state Department of Education.

Ridgefield librarians offer assistance in navigating VAMS sign ups

The process to receive a COVID-19 vaccine could be cumbersome.  People have to register through the CDC Vaccine Administration System, or VAMS, if they haven't been contacted by a doctor, municipality or other entity.  The state Department of Public Health has a link to do so on their website.  Then VAMS will verify registration and follow up with scheduling information.  Ridgefield Library staff is offering to help older residents who may be unfamiliar with computers and don't yet have an email address, which is required.  The librarians routinely help the public navigate government websites for things like unemployment, taxes and insurance.  They also help people set up email addresses every day.  Anyone needing assistance can contact the Ridgefield Adult Services Librarian (by phone at 203-438-2282 x12004 -Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 10am-1pm or email at ReferenceDesk@ridgefieldlibrary.org.

Some Danbury school students returning to the classroom

Some Danbury school students are returning to the classroom for the first time in nearly a year. 

Elementary school students start back today, while middle school students return on Monday, and High Schoolers on February 1st.  Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella asked parents for patience during the first week or two back to in person learning. Staff will be working to adjust to their new demands and students will be working to learn new systems and routines with new COVID guidelines in place.  The district plans to review all procedures in order to improve delivery of instruction to students in this new model.

Students should bring a fully charged laptop and charger to school each day they are in attendance. 

Students will be offered breakfast and lunch during in-person learning. For the elementary grades, breakfast will be offered upon entry and eaten in the classroom. Lunch will be eaten in school. For the secondary grades, breakfast will also be provided upon arrival and lunch will be distributed as a “grab and go” meal to take home.

Transgender athletes look to changing of White House guard

Transgender athletes are getting an ally in the White House next week as they seek to participate as their identified gender in high school and college sports — although state legislatures, Congress and the courts are all expected to have their say this year, too.

Attorneys on both sides say they expect President-elect Joe Biden’s Department of Education will switch sides in two key legal battles — one in Connecticut, the other in Idaho — that could go a long way in determining whether transgender athletes are treated by the sex on their birth certificates or by how they identify.

Debate is also expected in statehouses. Last year, bills to restrict transgender athletes’ participation to their gender assigned at birth were brought up in 17 states, although only one, Idaho’s, became law.

It may ultimately fall to Congress to clarify once and for all whether Title IX, the civil rights law that guarantees equal opportunities for women and girls in education, protects or bars the participation of transgender females in women’s sports, said Elizabeth Sharrow, an associate professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts.

“I think if they do that, lawmakers at the state level can propose laws, but it doesn’t mean those proposals are going to be taken seriously in the legislative bodies they serve in or that if the state passes those laws anyway that they would necessarily be considered legitimate,” she said. “The courts will sort that out.”

During his campaign, Biden committed to restoring transgender students’ access to sports, bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity.

“States that like Idaho attempt to bar trans girls from girls sports, regardless of age of transition, medical intervention or anything else, with a new federal administration, will now be risking lawsuits by the federal government, Justice Department intervention and the loss of federal funding,” said Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for transgender justice.

In Idaho, a law signed in March became the nation’s first to prohibit transgender students who identify as female from playing on female teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. The law was supported by President Donald Trump’s administration but blocked from implementation by a federal judge while a legal challenge by ACLU proceeds.

“Allowing males to enter our sports isn’t fair,” Madison Kenyon, a cross-country runner at Idaho State, said in a statement Friday. “It changes everything because it eliminates the connection between an athlete’s effort and her success. Idaho’s law helps make sure that, when women like me work hard, that hard work pays off, and we have a shot at winning.”

In Connecticut, the Trump administration intervened in support of a lawsuit filed by several non-transgender girls in Connecticut who were seeking to block a state policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in line with their identity. The plaintiffs argued transgender female runners had an unfair physical advantage.

But the two transgender runners at the center of that case said in court filings that being able to run against girls was central to their well-being.

“Running has been so important for my identity, my growth as a person, and my ability to survive in a world that discriminates against me,” Andraya Yearwood wrote to the court. “I am thankful that I live in Connecticut where I can be treated as a girl in all aspects of life and not face discrimination at school.”

Neither of the two closely watched cases is expected to be decided for months. A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 26 on a request to dismiss the Connecticut lawsuit.

The ACLU and the Christian nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, which is fighting in Connecticut and Idaho to bar the participation of trans athletes, expect Biden’s administration to declare that Title IX also protects transgender girls from discrimination.

Opponents say Title IX protects cisgender girls and allowing trans girls to participate against them is a violation of the statute.

“I think that is extremely concerning for the future of women’s sports and would reverse nearly 50 years of gains for women under Title IX,” said Christiana Holcomb, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom.

In states that have adopted policies on transgender participation high school sports, approaches have varied.

Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia have policies similar to Connecticut’s, according to Transathlete.com. Fourteen others allow transgender participation with certain conditions, such as hormone treatments or other proof the athlete is transitioning, according to the organization.

Opponents of bans are encouraged by Biden’s victory and a 2020 Supreme Court decision that found that transgender people are protected from discrimination in employment.

“It’s possible that the Connecticut case could evaporate under a new administration that doesn’t want to press it,” said Erin Buzuvis, a professor at the Western New England School of Law who specializes in gender and discrimination in education and athletics.

“The Idaho situation is different because it is a state law that is being challenged under the equal protection doctrine,” Buzuvis said. “That could set some sort of national standard about what kind of policies states are allowed to have or prohibited to have. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the case would say, ‘Here is the one policy that all states must have.’”

Putnam County vaccination clinics could be added with little notice

The Putnam County Department of Health held its third point-of-dispensing clinic, and administered 308 vaccines to newly eligible residents and others who work in the County. This new group included police, fire fighters and school districts.  The Putnam County health department expects to schedule a future clinic soon, however none are scheduled at this time.  One could be set up quickly, as the health department only learns from New York State how much vaccine they will receive, and what new groups, if any, are eligible for a first dose, with less than one week’s notice. When a County clinic is scheduled, a link will be sent directly to specific organizations or shared on the health department website.

Health care providers may have entered residents into VAMS system already

Brookfield Officials say some resident's names may have already been entered into the CDC Vaccine Administration Management system, or VAMS.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says they have learned that entities, such as Nuvance have entered many of the email addresses that they have on file, without the residents knowledge.  Brookfield residents should still receive an email from VAMS regardless of which entity put their data into the system.  Brookfield will be uploading additional names received through the town's pre-registration form into the VAMS website today for anyone who is in priority group 1b and is aged 75 years and older. 

Winter weather heating reminders from New Fairfield firefighters

Some colder weather is expected to move into the region this weekend.  New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department is offering some winter safety tips.  They urge residents to keep  flammable materials at least three feet away from furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters.  29-percent of fires that spread past the object of origin happened because the heat source was too close to things that can burn.  New Fairfield firefighters remind people not to use an oven or stovetop to heat the home.  Kitchen ovens were never designed for heating.

Danbury City employees using Sara Alert app to monitor COVID-19 symptoms

Danbury City employees have been using the Sara Alert app to monitor COVID-19 symptoms.  The police department is now part of the employee pool using the app.  Acting Health Director Kara Prunty says they're monitoring it as best as possible, but have had some technical issues.  The app was originally designed to be for contact tracing.  The city used it before getting the state contact system.  If the Danbury Health Department gets a notification through Sara Alert that an employee answers yes to a symptom, they will follow up to go through the employee's symptoms.  City employees are not supposed to come into work if they answer yes.  Punty says the point is to be self-screening in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Car vs pole crash closes Newtown roadway

The car accident in Newtown on Wasserman Way involving a utility pole has caused some power outages.  That includes the Fairfield Hills campus, where town hall and the community center are located.  The High School Pool and Community Center Pool are both currently closed.   Wasserman Way remains closed at Trades Lane because of the crash, which happened shortly before 7am.  Eversource is estimating the time of restoration as 4:30pm.

Ridgefield's annual MLK Jr. Day celebration is virtual today

Today is the 25th anniversary of Ridgefield’s MLK Jr. Day celebration, honoring the legacy of the civil rights leader.  The Spirit of Dr. King Award is presented each year to a Ridgefield resident for their outstanding commitment to community service and selflessness.  This year's honoree is Mark Robinson, a member of the Youth Commission who founded the celebration.  The virtual event will include remarks by United States Senator Richard Blumenthal and performances by The Ridgefield Chorale, KEYS students and others.  Actress Kimberly Wilson, who has also been a part of the entertainment every year, will also take part.  Robinson served 12 years on the state’s Martin Luther King Holiday Commission from 2000 to 2012.

Brookfield Police Officer retires

Brookfield Police Officer Eric Birdseye has retired after 30 Years of service.  Department officials say  Eric is a decorated officer, having earned commendations and awards for his bravery, life saving skills and investigative work.  Brookfield Police wished the U-S Navy Veteran “Fair Winds and Following Seas” as he prepared for retirement.  He could continue to serve the community as a special officer in his retirement.

Women's Bi-Partisan Legislative Caucus holds meeting on COVID relief

The Connecticut Women’s Bi-Partisan Legislative Caucus has held a virtual town hall meeting about COVID-19 relief and small businesses.  Danbury Senator Julie Kushner says the forum on Friday featured business advisors from the Women’s Business Development Council.  They gave a run-down of the latest federal relief bill, provided guidance about PPP loans, and answered questions from attendees.

Drive able to get out of rolled over car in marsh

A vehicle went off a roadway in Redding lat Saturday night and ended up on its side in a marsh.  West Redding and Redding Fire companies responded to Route 7 in th the area of Empire Fence for the reported single vehicle rollover around 10:30pm.  First responders found that the occupant was able to self extricate, and reported no injuries. The vehicle was removed from the marsh and the roadway was reopened.

Nuvance Health asks people not to call them for COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Nuvance Health officials are asking people not to call them for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.  Nuvance is not scheduling appointments or creating wait lists for those who are not eligible.  The health system says they will let patients know when they are able to offer vaccines to them. Nuvance asked patients to help them by not contacting Danbury and New Milford hospitals or Nuvance medical offices to ask about vaccines.  Nuvance Health is using the CDC Vaccine Administration Management System, or VAMS.  Appointment can not be scheduled directly at Nuvance Health, though their locations are listed in VAMS and available for those who schedule an appointment through that system.

New Milford schools to reopen in hybrid model tomorrow

New Milford Public School officials have reviewed local coronavirus data from the Department of Public Health for New Milford as well as the number of positive cases reported from the week. After reviewing the data, the Superintendent determined that all New Milford Public Schools will open in the Hybrid model beginning on Tuesday.

Mayor Pete Bass says the State and New Milford are working on completing the first vaccinations of the 1A phase . New Milford will be holding a clinic to address those 1A participants that have not been vaccinated or have a appointment in the VAMS system. As 1B begins registering those 75years and over, New Milford asked Seniors to fill out the registration form on the Town website.  Bass says they will continue a partnership with the VNA on the 1B Phase.

Brookfield Senior Center hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinics

Brookfield will hold two COVID-19 clinics at the Senior Center at the end of this week.  There are no walk ins and phone appointments could not be made for these clinics.  They were listed online through the state and CDC VAMS system.  There were a limited number of appointments based on limited doses received in town.  The VAMS system is first come-first served and anyone in the State can book an appointment at any clinic that has available time slots. The day before appointments, patients will receive a reminder and a medical screening survey via email.  This must be completed before the appointment, or the patient will have to reschedule. 

Most Bethel Schools staff members want COVID-19 vaccine

According to the latest Bethel School District newsletter, more than three-quarters of school staff members have said they want the COVID-19 vaccine.  Superintendent Christine Carver says the Health Department and district hope to begin vaccinating school staff by the end of this month or early next, though it does depend on the availability of doses.  This clinic will be open to those from the public schools and St. Mary’s School.  Carver noted that as the pandemic continues, any staff who has received both vaccine doses and is exposed to COVID, will still have to quarantine.  She says this is because it has not been determined if vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus if they are exposures. 

Redding Human Services Department to aid in vaccine appointment scheduling

Redding now has a COVID-19 vaccination pre-registration link on the Town website.  Redding residents 65 and older may pre-register and will then receive an email to schedule vaccine appointments.  Those age 75 and up are currently prioritized for vaccination.  The email from CDC VAMS will ask to set a time and preferred vaccination site location.  Those who are 75 and up and who do not have internet access can call the Redding Human Services Department at 203-938-9725 to register.  COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the Redding Community Center will require an appointment.  Health Director Doug Hartline says the greatest limitation has to do with supply chain matters, which are largely out of municipal control. All clinic operations are dependent on vaccine supply.

Turf field replacement projects in Danbury moving forward

Turf field replacement projects in Danbury are moving forward.  Construction Services, using Danbury Department of Public Works resources and on-Call Sports Facility Consultant JJA Sports, are in the process of designing the artificial turf replacements and improvements of Kaplanis, Perry and Danbury High School Fields.  Plans call for Kaplanis and Perry Field to be replaced this upcoming construction season, and the DHS field construction in 2022. These three capital projects have been funded through the SNAPP 2020 Bond.

Danbury City Council accepts open space land donation

The Danbury City Council recently accepted an open space donation.  7.38 acres of natural habitat on Augusta Drive and 1.82 acres of wetlands abutting the Still River on Newtown Road are both in Commerce Park.  Melvyn J. Powers and Mary P. Land want to donate the property to the City for open space, passive recreation.   The Seymour Powers Trust owns the parcels. The late Seymour Powers was a philanthropist who created Commerce Park in the early 1960s.  Seymour Powers worked with former Danbury Environmental Director Jack Kozuchowski for over 7 years to create the Still River Greenway, which included the clean up of the Still River to make it clean enough to be used by the public for fishing.


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