Neighbors raise concerns about school for troubled youth

Newport Academy is the school raising concerns in Bethlehem (WFSB)

Some in the quiet town of Bethlehem say they're dealing with a bad neighbor.

They say a school for troubled youth is changing the dynamic in town and on Tuesday they held a meeting to discuss what can be done about it.

Newport Academy is at the center of the controversy.

Parents from all over the country pay tens of thousands of dollars to send their children to the school, with the hopes of seeing some positive changes.

However, neighbors don't have many nice things to say.

“It's just been a nuisance for the entire town,” said neighbor Cynthia Radauskas.

She is one of the closest neighbors to Newport Academy.

The school helps youth who have had difficulties in traditional school environments.

In the school's promotional video, they say they use various therapies to treat students and tout their 5 to 1 student to teacher ratio.

Neighbors said it's been nestled on Double Hill Road for several years, but recently, they say, the community has been negatively exposed to what's happening on campus.

“It used to be a nice, quiet town, everybody got along. There was no theft, or worry about locking your doors or leaving your keys in your car overnight, now you have to lock your doors while you're in the house,” Radauskas said.

On Tuesday night, at the selectman's meeting, neighbors voiced their concerns.

Emergency services said they are being stretched too thin, and that's because the school accounts for 20 percent of calls.

"Went into the Painted Pony, jumped over the bar, grabbed a couple bottles of vodka and ran off and drank them down. When we got to him, he was totally comatose," said Peter Dzielinski, of the Bethlehem Ambulance Association.

That was just one of the stories that came out of the meeting on Tuesday.

"We're basically giving someone a ride to the hospital. It's almost become like a taxi service," Dzielinski said.

"You'll find them laying in the middle of the road, stealing cars, escaping all over town," Radauskas said.

Radauskas says the school's mission is noble, they're just looking for more accountability.

“They really need to keep their kids confined to their property. Have security to keep them there,” Radauskas said.

"Youths in town, from Newport Academy, had stolen my wallet out of my own car. We were told that by the state police," said Lori Szumigala, of Bethlehem.

The biggest issue residents and town officials have is keeping the students on campus. They say runaways have been seen sitting in the road, trespassing and even committing more serious crimes.

“The worst call we've had was the theft of the vehicle,” said CT State Police Trooper Como D'Elia.

He said that car was found near Yankee Stadium. He said calls to the academy have doubled in the last year, and said it seems to correspond with the enrollment also doubling to over 50 students.

Representatives for the academy in California said in a statement "We do welcome any constructive discussion with the town on how we may best serve the needs of the teens of Connecticut. Facility closures over the past few years have led to a lack of availability of treatment for teens in Connecticut and we are actively working to fill that void."

Newport is one of the biggest taxpayers in town, but the first selectman says safety is the priority and if things aren't cleaned up, he'd rather have cows occupy the space.

While the town and the academy have had conversations in the past, there's no word on when the next one will be.

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