Shelton school board sets Oct. 13 full in-school return for pre-K to fourth grade

The Shelton Board of Education offices.

The Shelton Board of Education offices.

Contributed photo

SHELTON — All students in grades pre-K through 4 will be back in school on an early release schedule four days a week beginning Oct. 13.

The Board of Education this week voted 8-1, with board member Amy Romano opposed, to implement the plan presented by interim Superintendent Beth Smith that would bring pre-K to fourth grade students back into school buildings Tuesday through Friday.

Romano’s objection was that the return to full in-person classes should be faster than Smith proposed.

“Nowhere do I see any changes for grades 5 to 12 on trying to increase instruction to better the education for those children,” Romano said. “I feel we need to increase instruction for everyone, not just K to 4.”

Under Smith’s proposal, students in grades 5 to 12 would remain on their present hybrid schedule — two days a week in school on early release schedules, two days a week on distance learning.

Monday would remain a distance learning day for all district students.

Smith said the plan will go forward as the numbers of COVID-positive individuals in the city remains low. To date, only two school community members, both associated with Elizabeth Shelton School, have tested positive, and no schools have needed to be closed since the Sept. 8 reopening.

Romano called the plan “a disservice to our students and parents” and made a motion calling for students in kindergarten through eighth grade to attend in-school for four days, still under an early release schedule, beginning Oct. 5.

Romano included in her motion that the office of teaching and learning “look at the hybrid plan and see if modifications can be made to increase instruction time for the high school students and have a special meeting next week to hear about those changes.”

Board Chair Kathy Yolish then asked for a second to Romano’s motion — which was met with silence. With no second, Romano’s motion died without a vote. The board then voted on the administration’s plan, approving it with only Romano’s dissent.

“Very sad” was how Romano described the lack of a second to her motion, which prevented any discussion on her hopes for students returning to expanded in-school learning sooner rather than later.

Smith said the reopen committee will continue examining the health metrics. She said the administration will offer an evaluation and any further changes in late October or early November.

Romano said that the change in reason for in-school days on an early release schedule also has her concerned.

“We can’t go on forever with half days,” Romano said, “so what are we doing about this?”

Smith said “half days were first because of heat and then when the distance learning plan was adopted, half days were then because of that.

“As we continue now, half days are because of (the) distance learning plan to have teachers service those students on full distance learning and alternate days distance learning,” Smith added.

For students in grades 5 through 12, the hybrid model remains in place. Students with last names A through L will report to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students with last names M through Z will report to school Wednesdays and Fridays. The building principals will be placing children from the same household in the same classes or in the same daily rotation.

Distance Learning will continue to take place on Mondays and days students are not in school, Smith said, and staff will still report to work Monday through Friday.

Smith said the timing is right to bring the pre-K students back for four days because the district’s health experts said the health metrics warrant additional students returning to school.

The district will still be able to switch to different learning models as cases rise or fall, Smith said, and that some 1,400 Chromebooks now are available to students in grades 5 through 12 for 1-to-1 use of devices.

The board and administrators continued to urge parents to monitor their children’s health at home before sending them to school.

Smith said thermometers are available to parents from the school nurse.

Free breakfast and lunch, regardless of whether students receive in-building or distance learning, will continue to be available until either Dec. 31 or the funding from CSDE is exhausted, whichever occurs first, according to Smith.

Food is available for pick up in the Shelton High School bus loop from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, with additional times offered from 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.