‘Buzzing with joy:’ Shelton K-4 students back in class

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Face masks could not hide the enthusiastic smiles as students in grades K through 4 gathered — many for the first time in seven months — at their respective schools Tuesday.

Five of Shelton’s elementary schools reopened to all students only days after administrators were forced to put the high school and intermediate school on full distance learning because of the number of staff quarantined after positive COVID-19 tests were reported at each school.

“It is really great having our A-Z in-person learners back,” Booth Hill School Principal Dina Marks said Tuesday. “We have everyone wearing Booth Hill Blue to show that we are one school and one community. The staff and I are thrilled to have almost everyone under one roof.

“All of the students seem very happy to be back,” Marks added.

As of this week, all students at Mohegan, Booth Hill, Long Hill, Elizabeth Shelton and Sunnyside schools attend class in person from 9 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

“It is great having full classes again … it feels like the first day of school with everyone all together again,” Sunnyside School Principal Amy Yost said. “Some of these kids have not seen each other for months. It was a great time seeing these kids meet up again after all these months.”

Interim Superintendent Beth Smith said the first day was “wonderful.

“Staff was excited to have everyone back,” Smith said. “Only issue was increased parent traffic at dropoff and pickup.”

Yost said all students wore their masks and kept socially distant. There are no mask breaks in the classrooms, but students have three different areas in the school set up for such breaks if outside is not an option because of weather constraints, she said.

Marks said Booth Hill’s only mask compliance issue has been that, at times, the mask straps get loose and the masks start to droop under the nose.

“I would ask parents to make sure that their children's mask is fitted snugly or has a wire in the nose to hold the mask in place,” she said, adding that students have mask breaks at snack and lunch times and when the teachers feel it is appropriate.

Marks said having the students back Tuesday through Friday will help the students be more comfortable coming to school without such a long gap between in-school days.

“I am already noticing that the younger students who are hesitant to walk to their rooms alone walked in with no problem,” Marks said.

Yost said while class times have been adjusted to meet the modified schedule, there remains “a lot of instruction time” for those in class. Yost did say there are 50 students in her school continuing full distance learning.

Mohegan School staff and students said they were also excited to have both cohorts of children in school Tuesday.

“The school was buzzing with joy as the students saw some classmates for the first time since March,” Darla Lussier, Mohegan School’s first-year principal, said. “Although we have been in school for over a month, today definitely had a fresh new feel.”

Lussier said everyone continued to follow the safety rules in all areas of the building.

“Mohegan students have been very compliant with wearing masks, maintaining a social distance and washing their hands,” Lussier said. “We have designated areas for mask breaks as well as a mask break schedule for all classrooms.”

Lussier said the teachers have been taking the students outside for fresh air whenever possible and led social emotion learning lessons Tuesday to help unify the two groups that had been separated since school opened in September.

“Overall, despite heavy traffic at dismissal, Mohegan School had a fantastic day,” Lussier added.