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Lamont to spend COVID funds on summer education programs

Connecticut plans to allocate millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds toward education programs designed to help make up for learning lost by the state’s schoolchildren during the pandemic.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that $10.7 million of Connecticut’s federal pandemic recovery funding will pay for an initiative he’s calling the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program or LEAP, which will be a partnership between the state Department of Education and six regional state Education Service Centers.

Among other things, the program will send people directly into homes to work with families who have been struggling with absenteeism and remote learning in 15 particularly hard-hit school districts, including Danbury.

The money also will help fund summer camps and other educational experiences, which Lamont said the state will encourage students to attend before school resumes in the fall as a way to make up for lost time in the classroom.

“I want to make sure that we can provide that to kids at virtually no charge and no cost to every kid that wants to go,” Lamont said during an education roundtable in Meriden. “I want to put a youth corps together so that these kids have a friend, a mentor; that they get free access to museums and aquariums and libraries — all different ways that our kids can hit the ground running in September.”

Officials said the LEAP program will have three goals: to bridge students back to their school communities for the final months of the school year; to support enrollment in those summer programs and to facilitate a seamless transition back into the classroom for the 2021-22 school year.

State education officials said they used data collected through the state’s new attendance tracking system to identify the districts with the greatest need and allocate the LEAP funds to those areas.

The state last fall used relief dollars to distribute 141,000 laptops and 44,000 at-home internet connections for students in need.

U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal told the roundtable that millions more in education money will be coming to the state in the next few months as part of the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan and he said local school districts will be able to decide how to spend those funds.

Lamont said the state will receive $1.1 billion in education money from that plan over the next three years.

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes says chronic absenteeism and disengagement continue to be barriers to success.  She added that these problems have become exacerbated during this pandemic, especially in high need school districts.  Hayes added that this new program by the state is an example of how the American Rescue Plan will help struggling schools and students around the country.


New Milford Police mourn death of K9 Kira

New Milford Police K9 Kira has passed away.  The police dog retired from active duty in January, after 10 years of dedicated service. Kira succumbed to complications following surgery to remove a recently discovered tumor.  The K9 was recently honored with a ceremony at New Milford Town Hall, including presentation of a Mayoral Proclamation.  Handler Sgt. Lafond called it an honor to have been partnered with Kira, saying she was a member of the family.  He added that Kira was able to be a loving pup with his wife and three kids, but also had an impressive career.  Lafond thanked the staff at Candlewood Valley Animal Hospital for providing the utmost professional care and compassion during a difficult time.

Easton Police identify person responsible for drawing Swastikas outside elementary school

Several Swastikas drawn in chalk on the asphalt in the rear of an Easton school have been discovered.  The School Resource Officer along with Samuel Staples Elementary School staff conducted an investigation.  On Friday the responsible individual was identified.  A Hate and Bias Form was completed and filed with the State of Connecticut by the Easton Police Department.  The Easton School Superintendent’s office and School Officials will be in charge of the follow up investigation.  Easton Police say it's important that everyone understands that this symbol is a despicable reminder of hate, bias and has no place in a community which prides itself on being a welcoming, inclusive, and kind community.

Erratic driving leads to arrest of three convicted felons on weapns charges

A report of erratic driving has led to the arrest of three convicted felons. 

Southbury Police received a call from State Police Troop A about an erratic driver, who was pulled over Sunday on Old Waterbury Road at the intersection with Buck's Hill.  The driver was confrontational and more officer were called to the scene.  A search of the car turned up a loaded Smith and Wesson Model 36 Revolver .38 special along with extra ammunition. 

33-year old Vandrese Whitaker of Bethel was charged with resisting arrest, criminal possession of a firearm, weapon in a motor vehicle, refusing to be fingerprinted, and failure to drive right. 

37-year old Kevin Davis of Danbury and 42-year old Joseph Caldwell of Bethel were charged with criminal possession of a firearm.  Caldwell was also charged with having a weapon in a motor vehicle.

COVID-19 vaccine clinic set up for Bethel High School teens

A COVID-19 vaccine clinic has been set up for Bethel High School students ages 16 and over.  The School District has been working with the local  Department of Health and the Community Health Center to offer Pfizer doses to those interested and age-eligible.  The clinics will be held at the Danbury Mall on April 17th from 1:30 to 4 pm or April 25th from 10am to noon.  Parents are urged to check their email for additional information and registration links.  Pfizer is the only of the three vaccines with emergency use authorization in the U-S for 16 and 17 year olds.

Two fishermen rescued from Housatonic River in New Milford

Two fishermen have been rescued from the Housatonic River in New Milford.  Water Witch Hose Company volunteer firefighters responded to the area near the Bleachery Dam early Sunday afternoon on a report of an overturned boat.  The two fishermen were clinging to the vessel, just outside of the dam’s backwash.  A third person was pulled from the water by a private vessel.  No injuries were reported.  Fire officials urge residents not to swim or fish in that area, saying the dangers that lie beneath the surface of this seemingly calm dam, is a backwash that has an unpredictable current and will trap even the strongest of swimmers.  They noted that it is not a recreation area and not a good fishing spot.

Medical Examiner identifies man found dead in Danbury Thursday

The state Medical Examiner has identified the man found deceased in a retention pond in front of a Danbury condo complex.  Officials say 57-year old Todd Smith, who was reported missing in mid-January, was last seen in the area where he was found dead Thursday night.  Smith was last seen in the 90 block of Mill Plain Road.  His body was discovered near the entrance to the Westwood Village Condominiums at 55 Mill Plain.  The Medical Examiner says there were no apparent signs of trauma.  The cause and manner of his death are still pending.  

Report of person in water in Brewster unfounded

A report of a possible person in the water in Brewster this weekend turned out to be unfounded.  Late Saturday afternoon the Brewster Fire Department was dispatched to the East Branch of the Croton River.  The Mahopac Falls Fire Department Dive Team was also called to assist at the scene. A search of the area from land and water came up with negative results.

Danbury Water Department in second week of hydrant flushing

The Danbury Water Department is in their second week of hydrant flushing.  There are 88 streets and 6 condo complexes on the list for this week.  The annual maintenance is done to provide better water quality and fire protection.  Customers may experience fluctuations in pressure and discolored water.  If water id discolored, people should run the cold water tap until clear.  The impacted area this week includes Virginia Avenue, White Street, Shelter Rock Road, Stadley Rough Road, and Great Plain Road.

Danbury budget public hearing set for Thursday

The Danbury Budget Public Hearing has been scheduled for Thursday at 7pm.  Residents will be able to weigh in on the proposal from Mayor Joe Cavo.  The City Council will then further consider each line item in the plan, and vote at their meeting next month.  The Danbury Public School district encouraged families to sign up for the hearing.  Administrators say Danbury Public Schools struggle with overcrowding, lack of space, and lack of funding. The district has close to 12-thousand students, but the lowest per-pupil spending in the state. 

Danbury Acting Health Director to take over role permanently

At this month's Danbury City Council meeting, Mayor Joe Cavo announced plans for the next Director of the City's Health Department.  Acting Director Kara Prunty is in line for the position, but must finish her degree.  Connecticut requires health directors to be licensed physicians holding a degree in public health.  Prunty has a master’s in public administration.  The state typically requires health directors to be replaced within 60 days, but came to an agreement with Danbury officials to allow Prunty until September to finish her degree.

Bethel High School Winter Guard makes it to World Guard International Final

The Bethel High School Winter Guard has made it to the World Guard International Finals.  They competed with over 70 schools from around the world in Semi-Finals and ended with a Superior Rating.  This is the first time in the history of the Bethel Guard program the team has made it onto the finals.  Superintendent Dr Christine Carver says this is an incredible accomplishment during normal circumstances, but particularly so this challenging season. Had this been a typical year, they would have been performing in front of over 10,000 people in University of Dayton Arena at WGI finals.

Bethel Police seek business support for Special Olympics efforts

The Bethel Police Department is looking for local businesses to help support Special Olympics by sponsoring their leg of the torch run.  Each year officers run to support the Special Olympics Connecticut. Businesses can “adopt 1 mile” markers for $100 or 6 markers for $500.  Thank you signs will then be posted at each mile marker. Bethel Police are also selling 2021 torch run t-shirts.  Officer Jason Broad is leading the fundraising effort.

Medical Examiner awaiting toxicology report on deceased male found in Danbury

An autopsy has been completed of the deceased male found on Mill Plain Road last week.  The Chief Medical Examiner says there were no apparent signs of trauma found, but the exact cause of death is pending toxicology reports.  The process of identifying the male is underway.  Danbury Police spokesman Detective Lt Mark Williams says they are hopeful of being able to identify him within a few days.  The body was found Thursday night submerged in a retention pond at the entrance to a condo complex.

Leaps of Faith Adaptive Skiers seeks FERC approval for move from Newtown to Southbury

An organization that provides waterskiing programs for the disabled, special needs and veterans is looking to move to a new location. FirstLight Power is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve a non-project use application from Leaps of Faith Adaptive Skiers. 

The organization has been in operation on Lake Zoar for almost thirty years, becoming the leading adaptive waterskiing program in the northeast and a core adaptive and therapeutic sports resource for regional rehabilitation facilities.  They also operate local programs for at risk youth. 

Historically, the operation was run out of the founder’s home in Newtown, but outgrew that location.  FirstLight helped them move downstream to a Newtown public park in 2017. 

In 2019, Leaps of Faith and First Light entered discussions with the town of Southbury for use of an open parcel of land that was once a Town Park.  The temporary permit from First Light expired last year, leading to this application to FERC for their long term operations. 

FirstLight says the additional seasonal dock which will be placed in this area requires no significant land disturbing activities and therefore should have no effect on wetlands.

Ridgefield Board of Ed makes budget revisions

The Ridgefield Board of Education has made revisions to the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year in response to a 1.1 percent reduction from the Board of Finance.  The spending plan is still 2.35 percent more than the current year.  The new proposed school budget is $102.3 million .  Some savings were found in health insurance expenses, along with other insurance reductions.  Employee benefits also are lower than anticipated.  Negotiations are underway on workers’ compensation and liability insurance costs.  The referendum is set for May 11th.

New Fairfield to wind down COVID-19 vaccine clinic

New Fairfield plans to wind down the municipal vaccine clinic.  After 10 weeks, with increased availability elsewhere, the town will close up by the middle of next month.  New Fairfield administered 3,00 doses as of Thursday afternoon.  Volunteers have found when calling people on the waitlist, they've already been vaccinated elsewhere.  Despite a sharp drop in Johnson & Johnson doses due to a production issue, Connecticut public health officials still expect supply to outpace demand by the end of the month.  According to the latest state report, at least 42 percent of New Fairfield residents had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

112th House District Special Election to be held Tuesday

A special election is being held tomorrow in part of Newtown and in Monroe for a state House seat.  There are three candidates for the 112th District position.  The candidates are Republican Monroe Town Councilman Tony Scott, Democratic Monroe Board of Ed member Nicholas Kapoor and former Newtown Selectman William Furrier, running for the Independent Party.  Eligible Newtown residents are voting tomorrow at Reed Intermediate School, Monroe residents are voting at four polling locations.  The Special Election is needed because 4-term Republican JP Sredzinski resigned in February, saying the demands of a new job were taking a toll on his family.

Brookfield Assessor issues reminder about Grand List

The Brookfield Assessor has a reminders for all commercial building owners.  They should have received an income and expense form for the 2020 grand list in the mail.  Anyone who hasn't is asked to print one from the Brookfield town website. Income and expense forms are due to the Assessor's office no later than June 1st, or there will be a 10% penalty.  Apartment building owners must include a list of all residents and their apartment numbers


Brookfield Residential Brush Yard opens for the season today

The Brookfield Residential Brush Yard will be opening on today for the season and will be open most Saturdays through December.  Hours and additional information can be found on the town website.  This year, Brookfield added a glass recycling container. It is located in the parking lot at the entrance of the brush yard and before the gated entrance, so it can be conveniently accessed by residents on a 24/7 basis.





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