Shelton school buildings closed for remainder of school year

SHELTON — School buildings in Shelton and throughout the state will be closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

The highly anticipated decision from Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona and Gov. Ned Lamont came Tuesday, after parents, teachers and administrators from around the state increasingly questioned the wisdom of bringing 530,000 students into close proximity to one another too soon.

“Keeping schools closed for the remainder of the school year is the right thing to do,” said Shelton interim Superintendent Beth Smith.

“The health and wellbeing of our students, staff, parents and the community is paramount," added Smith. “This pandemic is not over. When it is safe, schools will reopen and there will probably be a new normal.”

In a morning announcement, Lamont ordered in-person classes at all K-12 public schools in Connecticut to remain canceled for the rest of the academic year and for distance learning to continue during that time.

Summer school programming remains up in the air. Further guidance on that is expected by the end of May.

The decision dashes any hopes of high school seniors participating in normal year-end celebrations, from prom to graduation. But Shelton educators have not given up on holding some type of commencement once restrictions are further eased.

“We are waiting for further guidance about what regulations will be in place for the end of June, July,” said Smith. “Our discussions have focused on what is important about the commencement ceremony to the students and if we cannot have a full ceremony, how can we provide some of what is important to them. We are ‘hoping for the best and planning for the worst.’”

Lamont, in his announcement, said he had remained hopeful of opening school, specifically for those graduating seniors.

“I know how important it is for so many students and teachers to finish out the school year,” said Lamont, “but given the current circumstances and to protect everyone’s safety, it has become clear that it’s just not possible.”

Public schools in the state closed in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic swept into the state. The target date for reopening has been walked back ever since while learning went online. The latest targeted reopening date was May 20.

"Shelton public schools will continue with our distance learning plan,” said Smith. “Our dedicated staff and teachers will continue to afford students with the opportunity to complete the year successfully."

Smith said the district will communicate information regarding necessary end-of-the-year procedures in the future including information about the district’s extended school year/credit recovery program for eligible students.

“I have been working with (interim Shelton High School Principal Kathy) Riddle and the senior class officers about some type of commencement celebration for the Shelton High School Class of 2020 to enable them to celebrate this milestone in a safe manner when the time is right,” said Smith.

Smith said she would be working with her administrative team to discuss end-of-the-year procedures, including safely having students and staff clean out classrooms, lockers and desks.

“We are also discussing a transition plan from grade to grade and in some cases building to building,” said Smith.

"Please continue to practice social distancing and stay safe,” added Smith. “We will continue to face the future with strength and determination and come out stronger when this is over. We are Shelton strong, and we are stronger than COVID-19.”