'We are ready to return': Shelton superintendent says in-person learning to resume Monday

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 — City students will be returning to in-person instruction on Monday, according to new Superintendent Ken Saranich.

Saranish said students in grades kindergarten through 6 will be in school for a full day, four days a week. Students in grades 7 to 12 will continue with a hybrid schedule. Wednesdays will be a distance learning day for all students and staff, Saranich added.

“We miss our kids,” Saranich said. “We know great things happen when students are back in person, learning from our teachers.”

For students in grades 7 to 12, those with last names ranging from A to L will be in school Monday and Tuesday, those from M to Z will be in school Thursday and Friday.

Saranich said cafeterias in all schools and playgrounds will now be open at the elementary level.

“This offers even greater opportunity for socialization strategies … and we will be following the mitigation strategies,” Saranich said.

The return to in-person instruction will mean more students back in school. Saranich said the principals have informed him that more families are opting to send their students back to school rather than remain on distance learning.

“We are ready to return,” Saranich said. “We know this will not be easy, but we feel we have the plans in place to keep our students and staff safe.”

Saranich said although the schools are cleaned daily, increasing the hours of in-person instruction in schools limits custodial time at the end of the day.

“A Wednesday distance learning day will provide a break in personal contact and an opportunity for more intensive cleaning in the middle of the week to provide a safer learning environment,” Saranich said.

The adjustments to the grade 7 to 12 schedule will provide continuity of two full days of in-person instruction for each of the cohorts, Saranich said. The two days of in-person instruction coupled with the improvements in distance learning and one-to-one devices in grades 7 to 12 will provide an increase in instructional time for our students, he added.

“This return to school will be the first step in reaching our goal of having all of our students back in school for full-day instruction five days a week,” Saranich said.

Saranich said the Reopen Shelton Schools executive committee will reexamine the situation at the end of the month. Depending on the number of positive COVID cases, Saranich said the committee will make additional recommendations at that time.

The committee first announced its recommendation for the Jan. 11 return-to-school date prior to the holidays. Students and staff returned to distance learning this week after the holiday break.

"Jan. 11 gives us the necessary time needed to properly prepare and review all data after the holiday,” Saranich, then assistant superintendent, said at the time. “Our goal is to get students back into school for in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible.”

Students will continue to be identified as in-person or distance learning on the option chosen by the family before we moved into full distance learning, Saranich said, adding that if parents would like to change their child’s status as a distance-learning or in-person student, they should contact their child’s principal.

In all, 110 people district-wide have tested positive for the virus since schools reopened in September. Of the 110 positive tests, Smith said 91 have been reported since Nov. 1.

The spike in cases — and massive numbers of quarantined staffers — forced the school district to send all students to remote instruction on Nov. 11. Saranich said no staff is quarantined at this time.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com