Staff, bus issues forcing school delays in Shelton

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON - Staffing and transportation issues are forcing the school district to run on a two-hour delay Tuesday, the second consecutive delayed opening since the return from holiday break.

Superintendent Ken Saranich alerted the school community Monday afternoon of the delayed opening Tuesday. He had sent out the notice about Monday’s delayed opening at 5:30 a.m. via social media, saying the two-hour delay allowed the district to “assess our situation with school.”

On Monday, just under 20 percent of the school district staff — including teachers, security, custodians and other building personnel — were out. Some of those absences were for non-COVID reasons, he said.

Saranich said that for those out related to COVID, some had positive tests, others were symptomatic and awaiting test results and others had not yet completed their 5-day quarantine period.

The 2-hour delay allowed for administrators to have the time to juggle staffers to provide “effective and safe in-person instruction,” he said.

“The extra time allows us to make the necessary determinations on staff allocation,” he said. “My priority is always instructing students. We have been told we cannot do remote, so I have to make sure we can keep the schools open and offer the safest learning environment we can.”

Saranich praised district personnel and the city-owned bus company officials who worked together to make sure the day ran smoothly.

“We got it done,” Saranich said. “Kudos to Shelton. When things get tough here, we always make it work.”

Regarding Tuesday’s delayed opening, Saranich said the move will “allow time to arrange coverage for staffing shortages at schools and in transportation.”

Shelton Student Transportation Service also alerted parents Monday morning that six buses would not run due to staff shortages. Director Ken Nappi was not available for comment.

This comes as positive cases are spiking statewide. The latest numbers released Monday morning had the state’s positivity rate at 21.5 percent in terms of PCR tests.

In Shelton, for the two-week period from Dec. 12 to 25, there were 566 reported positive cases, which stands at 98.3 per 100,000. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, there are 5,937 positive cases (5,103 confirmed) out of the 33,391 total tests administered.

The delayed opening comes one day after the superintendent emailed parents with the latest details on the return to school from the holiday break - which included a regularly timed opening.

“Despite any rumors that you may have heard regarding schools not reopening after the holiday break due to a rise in reported cases, the (state) and Governor Lamont remain committed to safely reopening Connecticut schools for in-person learning,” Saranich wrote.

Local health departments can no longer make decisions to close schools due to local outbreaks, according to Saranich.

“Only the Governor's office can close in-person learning through a declaration of a statewide emergency necessitating a return to remote learning,” he added. “At this time, there is no indication that (Lamont) will signal a return to remote learning.”