Shelton schools back in session

Teachers and administrators from public schools across Shelton were greeted with smiles and hugs Wednesday, Sept. 4, as the city’s schools officially opened for business.

Opening day had been scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 3, but the city-run bus company, Shelton Student Transportation Services, was still securing the necessary number of bus drivers to cover all the city routes into that afternoon. About 4 p.m. on Tuesday, school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet confirmed school would start Wednesday.

“The city bus company has managed to put together a list of drivers that have been verified by (the state Department of Motor Vehicles), with some drivers coming from out of the district,” said Clouet on Tuesday outside the bus garage, where he had spent about an hour confirming the drivers were certified by the state.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said the city has 56 drivers, and some backup drivers will be coming in.

“We are happy to be able to open school tomorrow,” said Clouet Tuesday. “We are happy to see the kids, and we are working closely with the teachers and principals to make sure this is an uneventful day for the kids.”

Shelton’s schools were to open Sept. 3, but Clouet announced on Aug. 30 that the opening was on hold, tentatively set for Sept. 4 since he had been unable at that point to confirm that the city had enough drivers or if those drivers in hand had all been certified by state DMV officials.

Some parents have already voiced concern about the bus routes, which were posted online earlier on Sept. 3, but Clouet said the district and Shelton Student Transportation Services will be “tweaking the routes all this week, which is commonplace in the first few days of school.”

“We will make sure no kids are left outside standing at a bus stop and no one comes for them,” added Clouet.

The decision to open school Wednesday came only hours after a few dozen residents converged on city hall to voice displeasure with how city officials — specifically Lauretti — have handled the bus operations. The mayor responded that he and his staff worked through the holiday weekend to secure all the necessary drivers.

“When you are dealing with forces within the (bus) industry that are working against you, it makes everything that much more difficult,” said Lauretti. “Those people complaining are either politically motivated or uninformed. We lost 10 drivers to Durham (School Services, the district’s bus operator in the last school year) the week before school was scheduled to start.”

Lauretti said that Durham withheld three of Shelton’s buses and failed to deliver driver records until only days before the planned Sept. 3 start.

“We had 90 percent of everything in place when Durham hired our drivers,” said Lauretti, adding that he still feels that Clouet should not have delayed the school opening. “(Clouet) chose to do that. He chose to mislead people.”

Clouet responded to the mayor’s statement, saying that “did not mislead people. Not until afternoon did the city have an (memo of understanding) with another company to add drivers; and even then it is below the number needed.”