Shelton schools to open Wednesday, Sept. 4

Incoming kindergartners get off the bus after going for a trial run on the morning of Friday, Aug. 30, at Elizabeth Shelton School.

Incoming kindergartners get off the bus after going for a trial run on the morning of Friday, Aug. 30, at Elizabeth Shelton School.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

After a one-day delay, Shelton’s public schools will be opening Wednesday, Sept. 4.

After speaking with Shelton Student Transportation Services head Ken Nappi at the bus garage during the afternoon Tuesday, school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet confirmed that there will be enough bus drivers to cover all routes for an opening Wednesday, Sept. 4.

“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.

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. “We are happy to see the kids, and we are working closely with the teachers and principals to make sure thus is an uneventful day for the kids.”

Shelton’s schools were to open Sept. 3, but school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet announced on Aug. 30 that the opening was on hold, tentatively set for Wednesday, 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 Department of Motor Vehicle officials.

Some parents have already voiced concern about the bus routes, which were posted online earlier on Sept. 3, but Clouetr said the district and Shelton Student Transportation Services will be “tweaking the routes all this week, which is common place 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 comes 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. The mayor added that the bus drivers left after receiving salary hikes and bonuses to leave the city operation.

“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.”