Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s change in guidance saying that students can sit just 3 feet apart in the classroom as long as they wear masks, D.C.-area schools and parents are evaluating what this means in terms of getting more students back to the classroom.
The CDC’s revised recommendations are a change from the 6-foot standard that has sharply limited how many students some schools can accommodate, leading to some places having to “remove desks, stagger schedules and take other steps to keep children apart,” The Associated Press reported.
A D.C. Public Schools spokesman said that they are waiting for D.C. Health’s updated school guidance to “evaluate how to operationalize these changes.” Community engagement and the safety of student are priorities, and “It remains our firm belief that the best place for students to learn is in the classroom,” the spokesman said.
In Arlington, Virginia, school Superintendent Francisco Duran said Tuesday that Arlington schools will continue with the current hybrid model for the remainder of this school year, in accordance with current health and safety guidance.
But with the recent CDC announcement, the group Arlington Parents for Education is calling to align with the new guidelines and “immediately apply the revised recommendations.”
The group said that Arlington Public Schools is “out of step” with the current health and safety guidance, specially since Virginia guidance had allowed for 3 feet of distance even before CDC followed suit.
Another group called Smart Restart APS — a coalition of parents and teachers — said that both 3 feet and 6 feet guidelines are arbitrary.
“Small airborne particles — that can be inhaled — travel either distance easily,” the group said.
Smart Restart APS believes that more distance is associated with reducing risk and reducing capacity does reduce the probability or risk of the virus in each classroom.
10/ Any changes to increase occupancy would make other mitigations much more critical, including better masks, outdoor lunch, cohorting, improving ventilation/filtration, and implementing a good surveillance testing program. Also, are they ready to trace close contacts w/i 6 ft?
— @SmartRestartAPS (@smartrestartaps) March 19, 2021
Smart Restart APS is petitioning the school system to hold lunch and breakfast outdoors everyday.
Students in Arlington will be able to be back in the classroom five days a week this fall, if they choose.
Baltimore County elementary school teacher and Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost says that schools have to be careful when it comes to loosening the protocols surrounding social distancing.
“The totality of the new social distancing guidance must be taken into consideration, as the CDC still recommends 6 feet of distancing in many different school settings and activities,” Bost said. “This is not a call to immediately abandon social distancing and thorough mitigation procedures in all schools and we must be cautious to properly adhere to all guidance and respond to conditions on the ground in our communities.”
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