Central Florida students return to class with new CDC distancing guidelines

As thousands of Central Florida students return to in-person learning after Spring Break, they may be sitting closer together in class.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its coronavirus safety guidelines for K-12 schools, recommending students now sit only three feet apart in class instead of six feet if everyone is wearing a mask. On its website, the CDC said the change reflects the latest science on physical distancing between students in classrooms.

Elizabeth Albert, President of Volusia County Educators Association, reacted to the announcement saying, "I am kind of sad to see the CDC roll it back because we’re so close to the end of the school year."

Albert said she does not expect to see much of a change in Florida because it is already happening in Florida because of classroom sizes. Last year, Governor Ron DeSantis mandated schools open for in-person learning for those who wanted that option. Between 60 to 70 percent of Volusia County students are back in brick and mortar schools.

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Albert said that brings some challenges, citing that "social distancing does not occur in our classrooms. That’s why it is critically important in our schools in Volusia County that we continue to wear our masks. We have done that from the beginning."

The CDC guidelines still call for six-foot social distancing during the following activities:

  • When masks can't be worn, such as when eating.
  • Between adults in the school building and between adults and students.
  • 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.
  • In common areas, such as school lobbies and auditoriums.

The CDC suggests middle and high school students in communities with a high COVID-19 transmission rate stay six feet apart in the classroom.

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Daniel Smith with Seminole County’s Education Association said he thinks the new guidelines could work if schools keep other safety measures in place, like plexiglass dividers.

"You may be three feet together, but if you have your masks on, and your divider, and your kids stay in their seats, I think it will work," Smith said.

To see the full list of CDC recommendations for K-12 students, visit the CDC website.

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