Shelton K-6 schools open again for after-hours, weekend use

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — For the first time in two years, the city’s elementary schools are available for use by outside organizations during evenings and weekends.

The district, with direction from the Board of Education in 2019, had closed the K-6 schools on evenings and weekends to save money. But Superintendent Ken Saranich said the savings were found to be minimal, mainly in energy costs, and recent upgrades have made the buildings more energy efficient.

The Board of Education Finance Committee, at its meeting Wednesday, authorized the district to again open those schools to organizations for after hours and weekend activities, effective immediately.

“The decision was made by the previously elected board to save money,” Saranich said, “It wasn’t as much of a cost savings as the board had hoped, but it had a major impact on the community and those organizations.”

For years, schools had played host to youth sporting organizations, scouting programs, Parent Teacher Organization events, and various holiday happenings, most notably Breakfast with Santa.

The policy took effect just prior to the pandemic, which ultimately forced all buildings to be shut down in March 2020.

“Initially the previous board cut the building usage because of the financial factor, and then COVID hit,” said Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish, who was a board member when this decision was made.

“The biggest complaint seemed to be from the PTO’s elementary schools Breakfast with Santa function,” Yolish said. “It is so much fun for the kids and the families. I used to attend as a teacher, and I know how enjoyable it was.”

Yolish said this also impacted basketball games and scouts and cheer programs.

“The community was affected by it, no question,” Saranich said. “People expressed concern and disdain for (that decision).”

Organizations pay the district for use of the building space, Saranich said, so the only real savings were energy costs. He said that much of the recent building work has made the structures more energy efficient, and further reduced the savings from keeping the buildings closed.

“The thought here was, why impose a hardship for such a small amount of savings,” Saranich said. “I think this decision demonstrates how much this board supports the community.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com