A small, private, special-ed school has applied for a special permit to begin operating this fall at 15 Cannon Rd., in the building that was formerly the ABC (A Better Chance of Wilton) boys’ residence.
Wilton’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) is expected to acknowledge the application at tonight’s Aug. 16 P&Z meeting at 7:15 p.m.
Cajal Academy, which was incorporated in Connecticut in 2019, is “for children who have high cognitive profiles coupled with an area of learning, social-emotional or neurophysiological differences,” according to documents filed with the special permit application.
The academy refers to its students with the descriptor, “twice exceptional” or “2e” for short. It says 2e differences create “a meaningfully different set of academic, social and emotional needs, which can be difficult to accommodate within mainstream schools.”
According to background information submitted with the application, the academy was forced to operate its “micro-school” remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, but hopes to resume in-person learning this fall at Wilton’s Cannon Rd. location, which it views as an “ideal” facility as it currently exists.
“The building’s configuration is uniquely well-suited for our needs, offering eight large classrooms in addition to a small group classroom, three therapeutic and/or administrative offices, a lunchroom, dedicated spaces for our therapeutic services and a large, beamed multi-purpose room in which to bring our community together.”
No changes would be needed to the interior or exterior of the 6,351-sq.ft. building, or to the existing parking areas, driveway, landscape or outbuilding (shed) on the property. The academy only anticipates “minimal, non-structural changes” in the future and would seek appropriate permits if and when such work might be conducted. Floor plans may be seen below.
The building “already meets the fire, health, sanitation, water, parking, landscaping, drainage and outdoor lighting requirements applicable to our use” and is also ADA-compliant, according to the applicant.
The academy initially plans to have 12 students, supported by five full-time-equivalent staff members — a combination of academic teachers and licensed occupational, physical, psychotherapy, and speech and language therapists.
The academy says it would enter a three-year lease term, with renewal options. Over that time, the academy could grow enrollment up to, but not more than, 36 students in grade K-12, with 11 full-time-equivalent staff members.
The application names the property owner as Pamela Aris. Town records indicate the 2.2-acre property is owned by The Cannon House, LLC, which also owns the adjacent property located at 436 Danbury Road (a.k.a. the Cannon House), where Dr. James Aris has a dental practice.
The applicant notes that 15 Cannon Road is zoned R-2A, where schools are permissible uses, with an approved special permit.
The academy would operate a 10-month school year, with a school day from 8:55 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and some after-school programming until 4:50 p.m. Other programs would be offered during the summer.
Evening activity, for “periodic educational workshops for parents and educators beginning after 7:00 p.m. or on weekends,” would be limited and would not exceed available parking.
The academy retained a traffic consultant who concluded the school would have “minimal impact” on traffic on Cannon Rd. and nearby Danbury Rd., involving relatively few cars with staggered student drop-offs and pick-ups (as well as staff arrivals and departures), and aided by a traffic signal at the intersection.
The applicant also indicated full-size school busses would not be used (only private cars, vans or “short” school buses) and suggested that the existing off-street parking capacity (15 cars) would be sufficient even if the enrollment increases in the future.
The application further noted that deep setbacks and mature landscaping offered full screening of parking and drop-off areas from view from both Cannon and Danbury roads.
P&Z meetings can be viewed by the public remotely on Zoom. You can find the Zoom link for tonight’s meeting on the agenda posted on the town website.