SHELTON — Perry Hill School students will be back in class together four days a week beginning Tuesday.

The Board of Education, at a special virtual meeting Wednesday, voted to approve the latest step in the Shelton Public Schools Reopen Plan, which allows for all Perry Hill School students back Tuesday through Friday, all of which are early dismissal days. Monday remains a full-distance learning day.

“Schools are the safest place for our students,” said interim Superintendent Beth Smith, adding that, while the district has recorded 21 positive COVID-19 cases since school resumed in September, none of the transmission has occurred in the school buildings.

“We know our students learn better when they are in front of our talented teachers,” Smith said.

“Our kids are what make us, so we are happy to have them back,” said Perry Hill School Principal Lorraine Williams, adding that the school staff will spend the next few days preparing for the students full return.

“We are working to be able to implement a semi block schedule for the second marking period which would give us more reading and math instruction time,” Williams said. “We are also working to be sure all classes have the right number of desks and chairs and can socially distance to the best extent possible in the classroom.”

Williams said staff is also preparing the school cafetorium for students to eat lunch. Students will need to be 6 feet apart and cohorts will need to have space in between.

“We are also concerned about traffic during drop off and pickup since so many students have opted out of the bus,” Williams said. “It may take a few days to straighten everything out, but we will work hard to get everything set.”

The Board of Education also approved allowing students, grades 7 to 12, who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, English-language learners or students with disabilities, to return to school Monday through Friday beginning on Nov. 9.

Other students in Shelton High and Shelton Intermediate will continue to attend school in cohorts — A to L going Tuesday and Thursday, and M to Z Wednesday and Friday, with alternating cohorts in-building on Mondays.

Smith said the district reopening team and medical advisors are not recommending bringing both the intermediate and high school students back in building together because of heightened health and safety concerns for students and staff.

Students in grades pre-K to 4 will continue to attend school Tuesday through Friday, with Monday a full-distance learning day.

All schools are running on an early-dismissal schedule.

Smith added that, effective Monday, all principals may begin to use larger areas — such as cafeterias, libraries, auditoriums and cafetoriums — for lunch, maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing between students, more than 6 feet between cohorts with all students facing in the same direction.

Some 22 percent of the school population are fully remote at this point.

Smith said again that the district is at “critical mass,” since there are not enough substitutes to handle mass amounts of staffers forced to quarantine.

Even the Shelton Student Transportation Services, the city-owned bus company, has experienced disruption in transporting students, Smith said.

The bus company has been forced to cancel multiple runs of students, morning and afternoon, numerous days over the past couple weeks because of drivers out for various reasons. One of the company drivers has tested positive for COVID-19, another is on quarantine and two others had fevers earlier this week and are out pending test results.

The interim superintendent added that the company has brought in 12 spare drivers, hired two new drivers and brought in one from a rival carrier to meet the district’s needs Thursday.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com