Shelton school board adopts school reopening plan, no decision on option yet
SHELTON — The city’s top educator remains uncomfortable sending all students back to school, even as the Board of Education adopted the state-mandated return-to-school plan Wednesday.
Interim Superintendent Beth Smith said the board’s adoption of the ReOpen Shelton Schools Fall 2020 plan — which contains details for full reopening, a hybrid model and full closure with distance learning for all students — does not mean the board or administration has selected a specific plan as of yet.
“I am uncomfortable sending all kids back to school right now,” Smith told board members before their unanimous vote to adopt the plan, due to the state by Friday.
Smith said she expects the state to offer guidance on the preferred option in early to mid-August. But she said the district and the ReOpen Shelton Schools Committee, which created the city’s plan, would evaluation the situation before making a final decision.
“Right now, it is not in the best interest of our students or our school district to send all kids back to school,” added Smith. “When it comes right down to it, we will make a decision based on the best interest of the health and safety of all our kids.”
Details for all three plans can be found at http://www.sheltonpublicschools.org/covid19.
Full opening model
Any in-school option calls for social distancing and face masks covering the nose and mouth required for all staff, students and visitors at all times inside the building. Masks with exterior vents will not be allowed, said Smith, and a policy governing mask breaks will be created.
The full-time, in-school reopening calls for a full-day schedule up to 100 percent capacity only if air conditioning is installed in the five elementary schools, none of which presently have air conditioning.
If air conditioning is not installed in the five elementary schools, because of the state-mandated requirements for the reopening of school due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Smith said all schools will open up to 100 percent capacity on shortened day schedules. Once the weather is consistently cooler, full day schedules will resume.
Parents and guardians may voluntarily choose for students to temporarily engage in distance learning from home. This may include real-time long-distance learning and distance learning on their own schedule, as well as live class participation.
Smith said administrators are finalizing a distance learning plan for those parents who choose to opt out of in-school learning.
Bus transportation under the full reopening plan can operate up to full capacity with mask requirements and loading and unloading restrictions, said Smith.
All students and transportation personnel will be required to wear a face mask or cloth face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth during transit, Smith said. The passenger’s face covering must be in place before boarding the bus and must be kept in place until completely off the bus.
Passengers should load into the bus from the back row to the front — the first passengers on the bus will sit in the back row — and then unload the bus from front to back by seat.
“I’m really struggling with this,” said board member Diana Meyer. “I don’t feel comfortable sending Shelton kids back to those un-air-conditioned elementary schools.
“I don’t feel I could look my neighbor in the eye and tell her her little kids can go back to an elementary school where it could be 95 degrees, for five hours, and they will have to wear masks all day,” added Meyer.
Smith said she doubted funds would be available for adding air conditioning to all classrooms, especially factoring unforeseen costs for cleaning supplies, additional substitutes and building improvements to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The hybrid model calls for students with last names A through M to report to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays; students with last names N through Z will report to school Wednesdays and Fridays. Smith said distance learning would be held Mondays and those days the student is not in school.
Students with disabilities who participate in special programs offered by the district (Alternate Learning Center, Therapeutic Learning Center, Life Skills) will receive in-school instruction on a full-day schedule Tuesdays through Fridays, if air conditioning is installed in the five elementary schools. If air conditioning is not installed in the five elementary schools, all schools will open on shortened day schedules.
Distance learning only
If it is decided to shutter all schools, students will participate in distance learning, which may include a combination of real time and self-schedued distance learning.
Bus transportation and all extracurricular activities, including athletics, would be suspended.
Students in grades 5 through 12 would be able to participate in the Shelton Public Schools Distance Learning Alternate Grading Plan For the COVID-19 Health Crisis adopted by the Shelton Board of Education on April 30. The district will determine a timeframe for participation.