Shelton students and parents should be able to enjoy the post-Labor Day start of school for at least one more year after this one.
Schools will open on Tuesday, Sept. 2 in Shelton this year, making the city one of the few communities where schools still begin after the holiday in early September.
School Supt. Freeman Burr said the city Board of Education (BOE) has continued to support the later start date, and a survey a few years ago indicated Shelton parents do as well.
But it appears the opening day will change during the 2016-17 academic year, two years from now, based on a state law. There also have been voluntary regional efforts to get schools to use the same calendar, including when week-long holidays are scheduled.
“I don’t think our board is thrilled with the idea of a state mandate on this,” Burr said of the start date. “One of the few things left to school board autonomy is the school calendar.”
The district will have 36 new certified staff member hires this school year, almost all of them teachers who are replacing retirees.
More than 5,000 students attend the eight schools in the Shelton public school system. Exact enrollment numbers are in flux, Burr said.
“It’s hard to project at this point,” he said Monday. “People moving in and out of the district up until the first day of school don’t necessarily inform us.”
“We’re likely take new registrations right up to the first day of school,” he said.
Districts must provide an official number to the state based on enrollment as of Oct. 1.
It’s certain that Shelton enrollment in kindergarten will increase with the expansion from a half-day program to a full-day program.
As of Aug. 27, there were 320 students signed up to attend kindergarten. The district had been expecting 275 to 300. This compared to the 226 youngsters who attended kindergarten during the 2013-14 school year.
‘The big priority’
“Full-day kindergarten is the big priority,” Burr said of the new school year.
The district should have 17 kindergarten classrooms, compared to eight in the last academic year (with the old system, the same room could be used for both morning and afternoon kindergarten classes).
Burr expects all the needed new kindergarten furniture and fixtures to arrive on time, with the exception of tables. Some tables will be rented on a short-term basis, perhaps for a few weeks, he said.
More instructional time
Another change in the new school year in Shelton will be more instructional time, with five additional minutes added of instructional time.
As part of a contract agreement with the local teachers’ union, the instructional day will increase by five minutes per year for three years beginning in 2014-15.
“We’re always looking for more instructional time,” Burr said. “It should help throughout the district. We think 15 more minutes over three years is a positive thing.”
An additional change will be a new writing program in kindergarten through grade six. “It integrates writing with our literacy block,” said Burr, expanding the time these students spend on writing and reading skills.
Infrastructure and security
Security improvements are being made to certain Shelton schools, from the addition of digital security camera systems to the installation of wire mesh and security window film to slow down possible intruders.
More extensive security-related improvements — including changes to main entrances — are expected to be made at the city’s three oldest schools, possibly within the next year.
One needed infrastructure project is a new roof at Sunnyside School. Burr said the current roof leaks “in a couple of areas,” including the school library.
School officials are working with city officials to resolve the problem in the future, he said. “We’ve done patching in recent years, but we now need to replace it,” Burr said.