Survey: Shelton parents, students have opposite reactions about return to school

The ReOpen Shelton Committee met July 10 to continue finalizing plans to reopen schools in the fall. A draft plan will go before the Board of Education July 22.

The ReOpen Shelton Committee met July 10 to continue finalizing plans to reopen schools in the fall. A draft plan will go before the Board of Education July 22.

Contributed photo

SHELTON — Parents are concerned about their children returning to school in the fall, while students are excited to return, according to survey data gathered by the ReOpen Shelton Schools Committee.

The ReOpen Shelton Schools Committee reviewed the survey — which was sent to 4,661 parents, with 26 percent responding — during its meeting July 10. Interim Superintendent Beth Smith said the committee will finalize a draft plan for opening schools this fall Monday, which will then be sent to the Board of Education.

“Our full opening and hybrid plan will address both in-building and virtual classes,” said Smith, adding that use of buildings will also be addressed in the plans. “It is an aggressive time frame with much work to be accomplished. We have a dedicated executive committee composed of members with expertise in a number of areas who provide valuable input.”

The state has ordered all school districts to submit a reopening plan by July 24. Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together, released June 29, offers guidance for districts to develop their reopen plans provided by the state Department of Education.

The school district’s plan, according to Smith, must contain three models: a full reopening for all students; a hybrid approach; and a full closure with only distance learning. The draft will be shared with the Executive Committee by the end of the week.

“Advisory committees’ feedback was discussed at our last meeting and will be taken into consideration when developing the plan,” Smith said. “After the plan has been submitted to the state and shared with the community, the Committee’s work will focus on discussing and writing the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the plan.”

The 13-question survey included responses from families from all grade levels, including pre-K.

Of the 1,228 respondents, an overwhelming 88 percent stated, under the existing federal and state guidelines, their child would attend in-person schooling.

The numbers flip flopped when asked about parent and student excitement levels regarding returning to school. About 39 percent of parents were excited for their child to return to school, with 61 percent concerned. In reverse, 63 percent of parents said their child was excited to return, with 37 saying their kids were worried.

If the district offered extracurriculars, such as sports and clubs, in the fall, 581 stated their children would participate, with 206 not participating and 441 undecided.

The vast majority of those responding said if the district returns to distance learning, they had appropriate internet capabilities. But 41 percent of the 1,228 stated they would need district-supplied technology for at-home instruction.

A majority of respondents stated they had appropriate childcare for either a hybrid approach (919 yes, 309 no) with some in-class and some distance learning, or a full digital learning approach (876 yes, 352 no).

The ReOpenShelton Schools Executive Committee was created prior to Gov. Ned Lamont’s edict. The committee consists of Smith, who chairs the committee, Assistant Superintendent Ken Saranich, Human Resources Director Carole Pannozzo, school Finance Director Rick Belden, school Maintenance and Facilities Director John Calhoun, school security head Ben Trabka, school nursing supervisor Adrianna Collins, school medical advisor Dr. Domenic Casablanca, Naugatuck Valley Health District Director Jessica Stalmaszek, city Public Safety and Emergency Management Director Mike Maglione, EMS Director of Operations, and Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish.

Smith said she also obtained recommendations from building principals on students and parents who could serve on advisory committees. She said she reached out to the bargaining unions for their representatives. Yolish selected the Board of Education members and the Executive Committee appointed community members. Smith reached out to Janice Simonetti, Interim Supervisor of Special Education, to put together representation for Students with Disabilities and Support Services.

Along with the survey, several executive committee members participated in school site visits to determine the extent of social distancing in classrooms.

Smith said the district is also in the process of creating a “COVID-19 Quick Link” on the district and each school’s webpage. Critical information will be available on the link.