SHELTON — Air high-fives and thumbs up were the order of the morning Tuesday as city schools welcomed back students for the first time in six months.

“Welcome back,” interim Superintendent Beth Smith yelled as students walked off the buses at Perry Hill School.

Smith made the rounds Tuesday, visiting the schools. Teachers, socially distanced and donning masks, could not hold in their enthusiasm as students — whether being dropped off by parents, as so many were, or coming off the bus — returned to their respective building for the first time since mid-March.

“The first day was very successful,” Smith said. “Students and staff were compliant with wearing masks over the nose and mouth. I visited every school and witnessed firsthand social distancing on the busses, at arrival, in hallways and classrooms, during mask breaks and in the lunch line.”

Smith said while the opening was “much quieter than other first days of school, students and staff were excited to be back in the classrooms.”

The district, like many across the state, is opening the school year during the pandemic with a hybrid model, with some students in class each day and the remainder learning remotely from home.

And the new in-class normal calls for academics mixed with a major dose of safety, with masks and social distancing required and plenty of hand washing to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Students have been broken into two groups with students with last names beginning A to L in class in person Tuesday and Thursday and students with last names beginning from M to Z in class in person Wednesday and Friday. All students distance learn on Mondays.

As of Sept. 1, Smith said told the board of education, 716 of the 4,358 students districtwide will be fully remote learning. Smith said she was “not surprised by the number of opt outs” and that that number could fluctuate.

Smith also told the board that 30 students have been officially withdrawn to be home schooled, and 770 students have opted out of bus transportation as of then.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com