Shelton distance learners can switch to in-person by May to attend prom

SHELTON — Since the start of the school year, distance learners in all grades have not been able to participate in extracurricular activities, according to Superintendent Ken Saranich, and the prom will be no exception.

But students who opt back into in-class instruction by May 1 will once again have access to extracurriculars, including juniors and seniors looking for a chance to attend prom.

About 17.5 percent of pre-K to 12 in the Shelton Public Schools are distance learners as of March 22. The junior prom will be May 21, and the senior prom will be held May 22, both at the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury.

“As always, we remain flexible and understanding to our students' needs and the decision-making process,” Saranich said. “If there are circumstances of students who wish to return to school after the May 1 date, a committee will review the case and make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“No student is being denied any opportunities,” Saranich added, “and we want to create a safe environment for everyone.”

Saranich said Shelton Public Schools has not changed its policy regarding distance learners participating in any extracurricular activities in K-12.

“With students returning to school for full in-person instruction in April, the community was recently reminded of the policy,” Saranich said.

All students will be back in class five days a week starting April 19, Saranich said. The move comes after district staffers — including café workers and bus drivers — received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose on Saturday.

“We want families to have the opportunity to enjoy their spring break and provide them enough time to make a decision on how their students will finish the school year,” he added. “It is a family's right and choice if they would like to be a distance learner.”

Saranich said his hope is that, by May 1, with more of the community receiving vaccinations, students can attend school as well as the end of the year celebrations with their peers.

Due to COVID-19 capacity restrictions as well as safety precautions, Shelton High Principal Kathy Riddle said the school needs to limit attendance at both proms to only those who are attending classes in-person.

The decision sparked some complaints on social media from parents, who said it seemed remote learners were being punished for being careful and not attending classes in person. But there have been many respondents on social media in favor of the district’s decision.

“I know some students and parents are disappointed about not having dates or distance learners not being eligible to attend,” Riddle said, “but we are truly trying to provide our students the safest opportunity to celebrate this occasion.”

Riddle said most students she has heard from “are appreciative of the opportunity to have a prom.”