Shelton’s first day of school will likely be pushed back to Wednesday, Sept. 5, as the process to register 60 city-owned buses continues.
Only three buses had been successfully registered by the time Board of Education members gathered for a special meeting Wednesday night.
Superintendent Dr. Christopher Clouet is holding a press conference at 1 p.m. today, Thursday, Aug. 30, at Perry Hill School, to discuss a decision on the first day of school. SheltonHerald.com will post the latest this afternoon.
“The reason for that is we want to see how many buses we have registered by tomorrow,” Dr. Clouet said. “We would love to have an on time start but we don’t know it can happen.”
The district is aiming to have transportation available to students attending tech schools and special education programs this Friday, Aug. 31. Last week, the board was informed that roughly half of the city-owned buses failed inspection.
Board members also learned Wednesday — while there is now an agreement between the city and Durham School Services — Mayor Mark Lauretti has declined to cover a portion of the propane costs the city has covered in the past. The added propane cost to the district, among other unforeseen expenses, means pay to participate fees will remain in place this year.
“The mayor declined to contribute $120,000 for propane, as in years’ past — I guess because we didn’t show adequate appreciation,” Board Chairman Mark Holden said.
With costs of propane going up, the board expects to pay an additional $184,380 for propane — cutting into a projected savings of $450,713 in the transportation contract. The district also paid an additional $35,865 to lease buses from Durham for summer school.
The remaining $230,468 in savings may be used, in large part, to hire two new elementary school teachers and buy materials for two new classrooms.
Assistant Superintendent Lorraine Rossner explained staff are monitoring two classes, one at Sunnyside and one at Elizabeth Shelton, that may exceed class size. In that case, new classes would be created within the first two weeks of school.
Board members expressed disappointment, frustration over the latest transportation developments and keeping pay to participate fees in place Shelton High School and Shelton Intermediate School.
“None of us are happy about this, it’s a sad day,” said board member Kathy Yolish.
“It’s been a discouraging three months,” Board member Kate Kutash added.
Board Chair Mark Holden shared the following message on social media late Wednesday night, regarding the transportation issues:
“Other than a half hour trip to feed the cats I’ve been tied up with BoE business for the last 10 hours.
We do have a transportation contract with Durham!
The bad news is as of 8pm tonight only three buses are currently re-registered and available for Durham to use. This is a responsibility of the City.
The buses are still registered until August 31st, but as of 4pm Durham staff was concerned they may not be able to operate them until the registrations reflect them as operators.
As buses are re-registered Durham will letter them as required by regulations to indicate they are the recognized operator, and do their own inspection to ensure they are safe for service.
“Dry runs” or practice runs will start as soon as possible.
Our first priority is getting the CES students to school. Those students have IEPs requiring services. Fortunately, two of the three buses that are currently registered are specially equipped for that purpose. We believe CES runs will start on Friday. We will update as information becomes available.
Next, we have transportation for Emmet O’Brien, Platt Tech, and Trumbull Agriscience. If we have the buses needed for those schools registered on Thursday morning Durham will make every effort to get them lettered and out on dry runs Thursday afternoon so those services can start on Fridaymorning. We will update on this Thursday afternoon.
Bus Safety day – Registrations for those 5 buses needs to be done, but they don’t need dry runs for that. Those buses need to be registered by earlyThursday afternoon so they can be lettered and show up on Friday morning.
Durham is monitoring registration status online and will start doing what they have to do as soon as they are aware a bus is re-registered.
Opening Shelton schools on Tuesday is very iffy at this point. We will know more early Thursday afternoon and will update.
PAY TO PARTICIPATE – The projected transportation savings from having access to City buses again are way down. The major factor is the Mayor decided to discontinue having the City cover $120,000 of propane as they have in recent years as he felt we didn’t show enough appreciation, and Propane costs have climbed significantly since our budget was prepared. Projected cost savings are now under $231,000.
In addition, two of our elementary schools have classes that are on the cusp of needing to add a classroom at a projected cost of about $90,000 each for staff and supplies.
New students with special needs have moved into the district.
As a result, the Pay to Participate program voted for to balance our budget in early June remains in place.
We can’t currently consider any of the restorations to cuts enacted in June.
If things improve, we’ll revisit the idea of changes.”
Check SheltonHerald.com Thursday afternoon for updates.