Teachers were back in class Aug. 26 to begin preparing for the return of students who have not been in their buildings since mid-March.

Interim Superintendent Beth Smith visited each of the schools, while district staff joined in a virtual convocation to kick off what will be a different educational experience for educators and students alike during the 2020-21 school year.

“Teacher return was great,” Smith said. “So much energy back in the buildings. They are working hard to prepare for students to return next week.”

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.

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.

Smith told the Board of Education at its meeting Aug. 26 that, as of that time, 716 of the 4,358 students district wide will be fully remote learning. Smith said she was “not surprised by the number of opt outs” and that that number could grow by week’s end.

Smith also told the board that 30 students have been officially withdrawn to be home schooled, and 770 students have opted out of bus transportation as of then.

Shelton students return to school on Sept. 8.

“It was so great to have the teachers and staff back in the building,” interim high school Principal Kathy Riddle said. “There was definitely a range of emotions and some people were definitely nervous but still excited to return.”

Riddle said staff is working daily to communicate, practice and instill safety measures into their daily lives.

“Our district is providing us with face shields, Plexiglass borders for offices, hand sanitizing stations and more,” Riddle added. “With each measure, our teachers certainly feel more comfortable and look forward to seeing our students again.”

Perry Hill School Principal Lorraine Williams echoed Riddle’s sentiments, saying that she was pleased with the day’s events.

“Getting back to the building brought many emotions," said Williams. “Being safe is our most important priority. Many steps have been put in place with the cleaning protocol, cohorting, mask wearing and social distancing.”

At Perry Hill, the staff gathered in person, social distancing, in the cafetorium and watched the district convocation and then met as a staff, Williams said.

“Teachers were excited to be back and see each other,” she said. “They were also nervous about getting classrooms COVID-19 ready and how they will manage both live and distance learners. Professional learning time will be given in the next seven days to help manage and plan for student return.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com