‘Our students need us’: Shelton schools return to in-person learning

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Face masks could not hide the enthusiasm as students and teachers came together Monday for the first time in two months.

The school district moved to full-distance learning Nov. 11 when COVID quarantines led to a staffing shortage that made it impossible to continue in-classroom instruction, officials said.

With Monday’s return to in-class instruction comes one other change — all students, whether in school or remote learning, will be on a full-day schedule. Students in grades K-6 will be in school four days a week, students in grades 7 to 12 remain hybrid. Wednesday will be a full distance learning day for all students.

"The students had smiles when they came in, and the teachers and staff are happy to have the building come alive again,” Booth Hill School Principal Dina Marks said. “We all wore Booth Hill Bulldog blue to celebrate coming together as a community.”

Elizabeth Shelton School Principal Jamie Weber said Monday’s reopening went “smooth” and students and staff were exicted to return.

“‘This is more exciting that Christmas morning,’ one student told me,” Weber said, adding that that “made my heart happy.”

Marks said, while the number of positive COVID-19 cases remains high, the spread has not been happening in schools.

“We are very careful to make sure our mitigation strategies like social distancing, masks, and hand washing are being followed,” Marks said.

Sunnyside School Principal Amy Yost echoed Marks’ comments.

“It felt great having our students back filling our hallways and classrooms,” Yost said. “Teachers were eager to greet our students and continue instruction. Being back to in-person instruction will give our teachers a deeper understanding of the necessary support to give our students both emotionally and academically.”

Superintendent Ken Saranich said Monday was like the first day of school all over again.

“We need to take our time, pace ourselves and remember to be welcoming, understanding and safe,” Saranich said. “We are all a little nervous about the uncertainties with this pandemic, but I believe we know how to address it safely in our schools and will all work together.”

Saranich said school buildings were shuttered in November due to staffing issues, not the spread within the schools.

"We have learned so much about how to better implement mitigation strategies and how to deliver effective distance instruction,” Saranich said. “As a team, we will continue to support each other in delivering quality instruction in a safe manner. Our students need us, our students miss us, and I am certain you miss them, too.”

Interim Shelton High Principal Kathy Riddle praised her staff for their work preparing for the students’ return, and “with 1:1 devices, we are able to provide more synchronous instruction.”

“We are excited to welcome our students back to SHS, especially following a full-day schedule,” Riddle said. “Students being back at school is better for their social-emotional well-being, and it will certainly help to keep them on task.”

Marks said the best distance learning experience cannot be compared to having in-person instruction.

“I am very proud of the work done by the teachers and parents to keep the students motivated and learning,” Marks added. “The kids, for the most part, adapted well, but are happy to be back.”