CDC updates guidelines on distancing in schools

“This is a worrisome distraction. We need to concentrate on ways for our state and districts to make it truly safe to send kids and teachers into a school—lifting mask requirements and trying to squeeze more kids in a class is not going to do that.”
— Texas AFT President Zeph Capo


The CDC updated its guidelines for schools on Friday to advise that “at least 3 feet” (instead of 6 feet) between students in a classroom would be acceptable in many situations, although the guidelines still encourage as much distancing as possible. The CDC summarized its other updates as: 

  • Clarified that ventilation is a component of strategies to clean and maintain healthy facilities.
  • Removed recommendation for physical barriers.
  • Clarified the role of community transmission levels in decision-making.
  • Added guidance on interventions when clusters occur.

Texas Education Guidance continually waffled over distancing and other safety rules, noting that they should be implemented when “feasible” and that districts should “consider” other protocols. So many Texas students already are spaced at 3 feet. The CDC updates are targeting districts across the country that still have not reopened to in-person instruction.

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo responded to the changes Friday by stating, “This is a worrisome distraction. We need to concentrate on ways for our state and districts to make it truly safe to send kids and teachers into a school—lifting mask requirements and trying to squeeze more kids in a class is not going to do that. We need to continue to emphasize masks, as much distancing as possible, increased COVID-19 testing, air quality enhancements, and getting all school employees vaccinated by the end of March. All of these measures require money, which is why we need to stop the state from using federal aid for schools on other budget items.” (See related story above on the American Rescue Plan funding.)

AFT President Randi Weingarten also said funding from the American Rescue Plan will be the most important consideration for ensuring safety on campuses and helping pay for the protocols the CDC still includes in its guidelines. “Until today, the literature on reducing distancing has been inconclusive at best and misleading at worst. The studies so far have often approached distancing in a vacuum, without measuring the effect of changes to other mitigation strategies, including masking,” she said.

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