SHELTON — All city schools will move to full distance learning until January in response to the recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases throughout the district, the superintendent announced Tuesday.

Interim Superintendent Beth Smith said the switch takes effect Wednesday and will last until at least Jan. 1.

“The district has made the extremely difficult decision to cancel in-building instruction and move to full distance learning," Smith said. “The decision on how to proceed after Jan. 1 will be discussed and communicated in December.

“We believe this is the best decision for the Shelton public schools community at this time,” Smith added.

This decision came one day after the district had moved Elizabeth Shelton School, the second grade at Long Hill School and a dyad - some 50 students - at Perry Hill School to remote learning until at least Friday. Mohegan School and another dyad at Perry Hill School were already on distance learning.

The district reported 33 COVID cases as of Monday since the start of the school year, but that number was expected to rise with more positive results reported later Tuesday.

“This pattern of positive COVID-19 cases in our community is primarily due to spread in families and from community activities,” Smith said. “I have previously communicated that Halloween, Thanksgiving and holiday recess would be critical times for our community.

“I ask that everyone continue to do your part to help mitigate the spread of this virus when you are out in the community and at social gatherings,” Smith added. “Please wear your masks over your nose and mouth at all times when not at home and practice social distancing and hand hygiene. It will take a community to get us back to in building instruction.”

The district has been working with the Naugatuck Valley Health Department, Smith said, and closely monitoring a “fairly consistent trend of increasing positive cases of COVID-19 affecting the Shelton Public Schools community.”

Last Thursday, the state Department of Public Health announced that Shelton was at a daily case rate of 15.5 percent per 100,000 residents, placing the city under the red alert.

“Since last Thursday, there have been an additional eight positive cases in the SPSS community, with additional cases reported (Tuesday) morning,” Smith said. “These increasing positive cases have affected our ability to safely keep our schools open and adequately staffed.”

Smith said the district team has been securing technology, with students in grades 5 through 12 with a Chromebooks. Certified staff members have been given cameras and tripods, and instruction on synchronous learning has also been provided to staff.

“The district is in a much better place than we were in September,” Smith said. “The focus of our work needs to shift from daily operations to teaching and learning and the delivery of instruction.”

Smith said food distribution for students will continue to be available Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and noon in the Shelton High School bus loop. On Friday, families will receive breakfast and lunch for Saturday and Sunday. Smith said families should bring a bag to transport food.

Smith said students in the process of reevaluations or being evaluated for special education purposes can have parents provide transportation to and from the schools for assessment purposes.

Parents of students who need to pick up materials from a school must contact the building principal to work out a mutually agreeable time, Smith said.

“The health and wellbeing of our students, staff, parents and the community has and continues to remain our top priority,” Smith said.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com