CONCORD – In unpacking the new CDC guidance on social distancing in schools it is important to keep in mind the context in which the recommendations can be implemented.
“The CDC guidance clearly states that three-foot distancing can be implemented, as long as other mitigation factors remain in place and are enforced,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH President. “Schools can operate with shorter distances between students, if they maintain precautions such as wearing masks.”
The revised CDC guidance states that students should remain at least six feet from each another while eating and during activities like chorus or sports. In addition, the six-foot distance should also be maintained when masks cannot be worn and in common areas like school lobbies and auditoriums.
“For a year now, NEA-NH has urged that we follow the science in determining how best to ensure the safety of students, families, and educators,” said Tuttle. “We have spoken out unceasingly to ensure that students and educators have the resources they need to safely and equitably return to in-person instruction.”
It is worth noting that the reduced distance applies to students only, not teachers and staff since virus transmission rates are higher among adults. If students are from a community where transmission of Covid-19 is high, they should remain six feet apart.
“We believe that the change to three feet distance for students in schools will be particularly challenging for large urban school districts and those that have not yet had access to the resources necessary to fully implement the very COVID-19 mitigation measures that the CDC says are essential to safe in-person instruction, no matter how far apart students in classrooms are,” said Tuttle.
“Distancing is one important strategy, but we must also continue to prioritize all mitigation strategies including vaccinations, wearing masks, hand washing, healthy school buildings and a system of testing, tracing, and quarantining. We know there is much work still to be done on aging and inadequate HVAC systems.”
“We are so close to being able to ensure that all our schools can be so much safer,” said Tuttle. “But as public health officials have rightly cautioned, in the face of new variants and a race to make vaccinations widely available, this is not the time to let down our guard.”