The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday issued an update to its K-12 School Operational Strategy that changes social distancing guidelines in schools from 6 feet to 3.
West Ada Chief Communication Officer Charalee Jackson said this change offers some relief in her district.
“We have known, with bringing grades 6-12 back on March 30, that it will be difficult to maintain six feet of distance at all times so this guidance does offer some relief, because we know that maintaining three feet will be much easier,” Jackson said.
The new CDC guideline for schools indicates:
- Students should have at least 3 feet of space in elementary schools.
- Students should have at least 3 feet of space in middle and high schools in areas of low, moderate or substantial community transmission. In areas of high community transmission, secondary students should have 6 feet of distance.
- Teachers, staff members and all other adults should have 6 feet of space between them and students.
- Everyone, students and staff, should maintain 6 feet of distance when masks cannot be worn.
- 6 feet of distance should be kept during activities when increased exhalation occurs (singing, exercise). These activities should be outdoors or in a large ventilated space whenever possible.
- 6 feet of distance should be kept in school common areas, like lobbies or auditoriums.
During the March 1 meeting of the Caldwell Board of Trustees, where the board voted to reopen schools for full in-person education starting on March 29, principal Anita Wilson told the board that physical distancing at 6 feet would be impossible at Caldwell High.
Secondary students in Nampa will also be returning to classes on March 29. Director of Communications and Community Relations Kathleen Tuck said they will also not be able to physically distance 6 feet in most classrooms.
Tuck added that any changes to the district’s operational plan, including distancing changes, would have to be made by the Board of Trustees, which isn’t scheduled to meet again until April 19.
Allison Westfall, communications director for both Caldwell and Kuna, said this is good news for the districts she works for. Kuna trustees will discuss the new guidance in their April meeting.
While the CDC is relaxing its guidance on distancing, it has not changed any rules regarding face coverings. The CDC maintains that masks should be worn at all times, by all people in school facilities, with a few exceptions such as meal times.
While Idaho politicians are working to outlaw mask mandates in the state, the CDC has kept mask wearing as its No. 1 prevention strategy for COVID-19. Other strategies include hand washing, cleaning surfaces and contact tracing.