What’s to Know about Three-Feet Social Distancing in Schools?

Isabella Luse

New studies have been showing something that is making the news: in some school settings, only 3 feet of physical distancing is needed. This was released on March 19th, 2021, from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), after many reviews of these studies. Why has this been proven? What will this do for us?

A study lasting for 4 months was completed by different colleges, involving 251 school districts in Massachusetts.  This study compared the differences between 3 feet social distancing, and 6 feet social distancing. The result? Not much. The study concluded that there was no real difference in cases in either classroom. This study spread like wildfire and caught the CDC’s attention. Soon after a long review of the study, they decided to put the newly found information to their guidance. So, according to the CDC website, “In middle and high schools…students should be at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal.” They go on to state that this should only be done when the disease is not transmitting at a fast rate in the community, in hallways, or with other adults. To put it simply, this allows students to fit in classrooms spaced 3 feet apart, rather than 6 feet apart. Why would this matter though, to be 3 feet apart rather than 6 feet in a classroom? 

Students are split now between in-person and virtual learning, and it is of high hopes with this new guidance that most students will be able to return to the classrooms soon.

For many schools across the country, a real struggle was to maintain this rule. Many classrooms do not have the capability to fit 20 students in a room yet keep the classes socially distanced at 6 feet. This caused many students and their parents to stay home, going virtual, or for the whole school to be entirely virtual. Many studies have also been done showing negative effects of being virtual as well, making it a priority of many school districts and others to reopen schools as soon as they can. Pedro Martinez, who was recently interviewed by The New York Times, is the superintendent of San Antonio Independent High School, stated that he thought the new guidance was “a game-changer”, and going on to state that, “My biggest hesitation has been the social distancing requirements.” As well, Melissa Ellis, the board president of Anne Arundel County, MD, also stated that “It was a real challenge to bring back students four-days with a six-foot distance requirement.”

In the end, slicing the old, 6-feet distancing rule in half is a game-changer for many schools. This will allow for schools to allow many, if not all, of their students to go back into school for a good amount of time. Although not much else would change about school life with this new rule, it makes it so much easier for the teachers and students alike to get a good education, and worry less about social distancing in the classroom.