RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – New guidance from the CDC says it’s OK for schools to place students 3 feet apart in classrooms rather than 6 feet apart. The guidance comes after several studies showing there is a low risk of COVID-19 spread within schools.
The new recommendation comes after some schools have already come up with safety measures. Durham Public Schools wrapped up its first full week of in-person learning this week.
In the classroom and throughout campus, 6 feet social distancing and masking are required.
“It has just been wonderful. It is wild to see and say that kids are better at wearing their masks than adults are,” said Casey Watson with Durham Public Schools.
If they keep those masks on, the CDC said K-12 students can sit 3 feet apart. In the guidance, the CDC cited three studies showing minimal COVID-19 transmission in schools.
One study out of Florida showed less than 1 percent of students with the virus caught it at schools.
The CDC does require schools to maintain six feet of distance in the following settings:
- Between adults (teachers and staff), and between adults and students, at all times in the school building. Several studies have found that transmission between staff is more common than transmission between students and staff, and among students, in schools.1
- When masks cannot be worn, such as when eating.
- During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band, or sports and exercise. Move these activities outdoors or to large, well-ventilated space, when possible.
- In common areas such as school lobbies and auditoriums.
However, in Durham, the district said they are sticking to the state and local health guidelines that call for 6 feet of distancing.
“We’re referencing those. Yes, the CDC is recommending now the 3 feet, but I think it’s responsible for us to maintain the 6 feet in the instructional space,” said Watson.
Not a one-size-fits-all guidance
The guidance does have a catch. In elementary school, the CDC said the shortened distance is OK.
However, at the middle and high school level, schools located in areas with a CDC label of high transmission rates are still advised to stick with 6 feet distancing.
It means some of the Triangle’s biggest school districts, Wake, Durham, Johnston, and Cumberland Counties would have to stick to 6 feet at middle and high schools.
“It’s been difficult to manage since March,” said Brian Groesser. He is a parent to three children in Wake County schools.
He said he comfortable with 3 feet along with masking.
“You see that at Target. You see that a restaurant that you go to where you’re sitting in a booth. Yes, you’re separated but you’re inevitably crossing somebody’s path where you’re less than 6 feet away,” he said.
As Wake County schools prepare to vote on increasing in-person learning, he hopes they consider this new data and can bring his older children back in the classroom full time.
“I think 3 feet will certainly make them feel more normal, something that they haven’t felt in over a year,” Groesser said.