Students, parents rally to save beloved Shelly the Tortoise

In Delaware County, families are rallying to save Shelly the Tortoise.

Shelly has been a beloved member of the Scenic Hills Elementary community for more than 25 years and now the Springfield School District says the tortoise is retiring and the ecology center where it lives is closing.

Students at Scenic Hills Elementary gathered outside the school Friday afternoon to hold a rally for the beloved school tortoise named Shelly.

At 150 pounds, families tell FOX 29 the tortoise has been part of the school Ecology Center for more than 25 years.

The Springfield School District sent out a notice last week informing the school community that Shelly is retiring, and the Ecology Center will be closing. This is part of a follow-up statement released to the public:

"While the concept of an Ecology Center that endeavors to support a tortoise such as Shelly has always been appealing, we have come to realize in practice that this space was not planned in accordance with industry standards and sustainability. As it currently exists, this space presents a significant risk of harm to our school community.

Although the plan for this space was well-intentioned, we have also come to realize that we can no longer maintain it in a safe and sustainable manner without having to impose upon our taxpayers both very significant capital investments and very substantial annual operational expenses going into perpetuity."

Parents said their children have been upset since the district made the announcement last Friday, and they’re just as devastated.

"When we go out to read there, he’s just like someone who says hi to you," said student Maeve Mcelroy.

"There’d be kids laughing and having fun, and if they destroy it, then kids can’t have that," said former student Tyler Corp.

Dana Dombrowski is a parent and said she has never heard of any safety issues in the past and funding for Shelly’s care has always been up to them.

"The money that funds Shelly comes from the Home and School which the parents and community do the fundraising for every year. This is not coming from taxpayer money," said Dombrowski.

The district said a retiring teacher, who was the primary caretaker for Shelly, will provide the tortoise with a loving home environment.

"I just really wish there had been more transparency, maybe an opportunity for us to speak about how we feel about it," said parent Kristina Snyder.

An online petition is circulating and as of Friday, it had over 2,300 signatures.