SHELTON — City schools will open next month with a hybrid model combining in-class and distance learning for grades pre-K to 12.

The Board of Education at its meeting Wednesday in Shelton High School approved the move, which interim Superintendent Beth Smith said was in “the best interest of the health and safety of our students, staff, parents and the community.”

While the hybrid model was chosen, Smith said that families can opt for remote learning for their child. To participate in the remote option, Smith said parents must fill out and submit the Opt Into Voluntary Full Distance Learning Due to COVID-19 or Opt Out of Bus Transportation form to their child’s building principal by Aug. 21.

The first day of school has yet to be finalized, Smith said.

Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish called the search for a solution that provides the best learning environment for students and staff “monumental.

“Obviously, the most important issue focused on safety,” Yolish said. “We also wanted to have everyone involved in the educational process feel secure in knowing that every aspect was considered from the specs of the classroom and accommodation of desks that are set a minimum of three feet apart, minimizing cohort groupings, acquiring a supply of PPE materials and analyzing our transportation data.”

After many hours of meetings and discussions, Yolish said, the decision to start the school year off with the hybrid plan was the district’s best choice.

“Many surrounding school systems are also following the same route as we enter a new and complex stage of educating children,” Yolish said. “We, the Shelton Board of Education, are committed to keeping our children and employees safe as well as having our families know that we will be vigilant in watching the daily data.”

Yolish said safety updates will be provided by central office staff and executive advisory board membership.

The plan calls for all students in grades pre-K through 12 to receive in-school instruction two days per week. All students will participate in distance learning Mondays, with students with last names A to L in school Tuesdays and Thursdays and students M to Z in 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.

Students with disabilities who participate in the district’s special programs — Alternate Learning Center, Therapeutic Learning Center, Life Skills — will receive in-school instruction on an early release schedule Tuesdays through Fridays.

The fully remote learning option, Smith said, will be primarily asynchronous, meaning students will complete their work assigned on their own time. Students will receive their work from their teachers through pre-recorded videos, emails and Google Classroom-posted assignments.

Those students will not be able to participate in extracurriculars such as clubs or sports.

If families want to re-enter their children into the hybrid model, Smith said, they must provide written notice to the specific school principal five days before coming back to in-person learning.

With not all schools having air conditioning and an inability to use fans, Smith said all schools will operate on early release schedules through September. Once the weather is consistently cooler, Smith said, full-day schedules will resume.

Sick staff will be immediately dismissed from main office, and sick students will be monitored in a separate isolation room until picked up. Upon notification, parents or emergency contacts will be expected to pick up ill children within one hour.

Thermometer distribution to parents who do not have them will be from 5 to 6 p.m. Aug. 20 in the Shelton High bus loop. Smith said 500 thermometers will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Smith said all staff, students in grades K through 12 and visitors to the buildings are required to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth. Masks with exterior vents will not be allowed. Smith said there will be scheduled mask breaks.

Social distancing “will be maximized between individual student workstations to the greatest extent possible,” she said.

Desks will face in the same direction, and some furniture and other materials including rugs, couches and bean bag chairs, will be removed from classrooms to maximize social distancing.

The board learned that some spaces within the schools — gymnasiums, cafeterias, lecture halls and libraries — may be repurposed for classrooms to maximize social distancing.

Whitsons Food Services will provide on-site meal service as a grab-and-go, and lunch prices will be the same as 2019-20. Students will eat lunch in their classrooms.

A food distribution plan for students temporarily opting into voluntary full distance learning will be announced in the coming weeks.

Smith said the district will communicate a technology and materials distribution plan to those students temporarily opting into voluntary full distance learning.

On the buses, all students and transportation personnel will be required to wear a face mask or cloth face covering that covers the nose and mouth during transit. The passenger’s face covering must be in place before boarding the bus and must be kept in place until they are completely off the bus.

Passengers should load into the bus from the back row to the front and then unload the bus at the school from front to back by seat.

Passengers will be spaced with family members sitting together; non-family members will be spaced six feet apart using alternating diagonal seating.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com