CDC halves distance requirements in schools from 6 to 3 feet

The change applies only to masked students, not school staff

CDC reduces classroom distance from 6 feet to 3 feet with masks
CDC reduces classroom distance from 6 feet to 3 feet with masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an announcement Friday that will impact schools across the country.

The CDC now said the science supports reducing the minimum recommended space between students as long as everyone is wearing a well-fitting mask.

READ: CDC changes school guidance, allowing desks to be closer

It’s a shift that will make it easier to reopen many schools or to switch from hybrid to full days in the classroom.

Under the new guidelines, students in elementary school can now sit three feet apart instead of the previously recommended six feet -- as long as everyone is wearing a mask.

“These recommendations are specific to students in classrooms with universal mask wearing,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Middle and high school students can also move to three feet apart with masks as long as cases in the community are low, moderate or substantial, but not high.

The changes come after the results of four school studies -- from Massachusetts, Utah, Missouri and Florida -- found the risk of transmission would be similar at three feet if everyone wore masks.

Educators weigh in on CDC's guideline on reducing school seating to 3 feet
Educators weigh in on CDC's guideline on reducing school seating to 3 feet

However, six feet of distance is still recommended in several situations, including:

  • Between all adults, or adults and students.
  • Whenever masks will be removed, such as eating.
  • In common areas, like auditoriums.
  • During activities like singing, band, exercising or playing sports.

You can read the CDC’s new guidelines here.

The new guidelines will help some schools get back to face-to-face learning, especially where population and space is an issue.

We have seen Districts with a variety of COVID mitigation strategies. Detroit Public Schools Community District has the most stringent with temperature checks at the door, smaller classes and distancing and Farmington Schools has partitions to keep students separated.

Kenneth Gutman is the superintendent of Walled Lake Consolidated Schools and the Vice President of the K-12 Alliance which represents more than half a million students and teachers in the Southeastern Michigan area. He said he needs more parents to take the pandemic seriously or none of the new guidelines will work long-term.

MORE: Return to School updates


About the Authors:

Kimberly Gill joined the Local 4 News team in November 2014. She was named Personality of the Year in 2009 by the Ohio Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. She’s also a two-time Emmy winner.

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.