Washington— Today the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidance on social distancing in schools from the recommended six feet of space to three feet. The announcement is a major step forward in the effort to reopen schools and is being hailed by superintendents and state education commissioners across the country. CDC’s latest guidance comes after a recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases demonstrated that schools are safe to open for in-person instruction if children maintain three feet of distance, so long as other safety and mitigation steps—like masking—remain in place. The CDC’s updated guidance that schools are safe to reopen with less distancing than previously recommended gives yet another jolt to the effort to safely reopen schools nationwide. The new guidance is particularly important for underserved communities and districts, where school buildings tend to be older, and six feet of distancing is more difficult because there are fewer options for available learning space.
“This news should give all of us hope,” said San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent and Chiefs for Change Board Chair Pedro Martinez. “In-person learning is critical to students’ academic and social and emotional growth. We welcome this clarity from the CDC. It gives superintendents across the country the operational ability to get all children safely back into the classroom for the face-to-face instruction and supports they so urgently need.”
“We know much more about the transmission of COVID-19 today than we did a year ago and have learned that health and safety protocols in our schools have successfully reduced spread,” said Broward County Public Schools Superintendent and Chiefs for Change Board Member Robert Runcie. “Many districts throughout the nation have successfully mitigated transmission using three feet physical distancing while maintaining their other protocols including disciplined mask wearing. If lower physical distancing policies can be adopted in schools without adversely affecting our students, it will enable more students to return to the classroom for a much needed traditional face-to-face education.”
“This is an important development. A reduction in distancing was always going to be necessary for all students to return to the classroom, but this announcement by the CDC provides us another component of a blueprint for safe, full-time in-person learning. Millions of vulnerable children and families are struggling without in-person learning, and this announcement is a breakthrough in reopening schools for good,” said Mike Magee, CEO of Chiefs for Change.
The new CDC guidance builds on an announcement this week that the Biden Administration will make available $10 billion to states for COVID testing in schools. This fall, though teachers and school staff may be vaccinated, many students may not be. That means to ensure schools reopen and stay open, districts must launch robust Covid-19 testing programs. Chiefs for Change has created a suite of resources to help districts implement testing programs and partnerships. Find those materials here.