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Idaho school districts react to revised CDC social distancing guidelines

The CDC updated its social distancing guidelines for schools, changing the amount of space that should be kept between students from six-feet to three-feet.

BOISE, Idaho — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) modified the operation strategy for K-12 schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, the guidelines now state at least three feet should be kept between students rather than six feet.

Revised distancing guidelines now state three feet of physical distance is enough for students, teachers, and staff as long as appropriate facial coverings are worn.

“It certainly is good news," said Allison Westfall, communications director for Kuna and Caldwell School Districts. "It reinforces the importance of wearing masks, which is required in both districts because you’re able to do that shorter distance when the students are all wearing masks.”          

Both Kuna and Caldwell school districts will bring secondary students back for in-person learning after spring break. With more students coming back, physical distancing will be a challenge, according to Westfall, but this new guidance helps alleviate some of that pressure.

“As teachers return back from spring break, they will be looking at their classrooms and their student loads and determining how to structure that within these new guidelines,” she said.

Central District Health (CDH), the public health district that oversees Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties, is in support of the new CDC guidance, according to Alina Gilmore, CDH's public information technician. 

She noted it can be difficult to maintain six feet of distance at all times in the classroom due to the limited space. While CDH supports the new CDC recommendations, six feet is still preferred when possible.

“Six-feet gives that distance so that everyone can stay safe and that distance apart so they're not as close in contact," Gilmore said. "We don’t want transmission as we are seeing variants pop up and spread in our community and more sequenced tests. We don’t want to see that happen in our school setting."

While recommendations for distancing in schools has changed, the CDC continues to recommend at least 6 feet of distance:

  • Between adults in the school building and between adults and students.
  • In common areas, such as school lobbies and auditoriums.
  • When masks can’t be worn, such as when eating.
  • During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, sports, or exercise. These activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.
  • In community settings outside of the classroom.

Several other school district shared their reactions with KTVB after learning about the new guidelines:

We are encouraged by this new CDC guidance regarding physical distancing in schools. Central District Health is currently looking into how this may affect our contact tracing, quarantine guidelines, and classroom set up and we hope to know more following spring break.
-Boise School District

We have known, with bringing grades 6-12 back on March 30 full time, 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.
-West Ada School District

Changes would require board approval. The board's next regular meeting is April 19. So unless they call a special meeting, our plan remains in place for now.
-Nampa School District

CDH will publish a full recommendation for Treasure Valley school districts next week.

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