From 6 to 3 Feet: Manchester Public Schools to Reduce Social Distancing

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We may soon see decreased social distancing in classrooms.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the federal agency is looking to update its guidance from staying 6 to 3 three feet apart in schools.

It’s a move a Connecticut school district had already decided to make.

Fifth through 12th graders in Manchester are expected to return to the classroom April 19.

Superintendent Matt Geary wrote to community members earlier this month letting them know to expect a new change: shrinking social distancing from 6 to 3 feet.

In his letter, he cited research from the World Health Organization that when community spread is low 3 feet should suffice.

“Multiple politicians for months have been calling for students to resume in person learning. The CDC guidelines of 6 feet make that incredibly challenging, physically impossible in many spaces,” said Geary.

Geary says elementary students were able to return to in-person learning in November with 6 feet of social distancing because he was able to reassign teachers to keep classes small, but that won’t work for older grades.

“If possible we’ll have students spread 6 feet apart, but we wanted families to know realistically with the classroom space they’re going to be closer together,” said Geary, who says handwashing, masks, and other safety protocols will still be in place.

Connecticut has followed CDC guidelines recommending seating and desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible.

But the director of the federal agency said Wednesday that they’re evaluating their recommendations after reading the findings of a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

It compared the rate of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts students and staff learning at 3 versus 6 feet of spacing. Researchers found no significant difference.

“The key piece of this study was that there’s the compliance of masks, said Keith Grant, Hartford HealthCare senior system director for infection prevention.

So could this information impact distancing at settings other than schools? Grant says it’s too early to say.

“I don’t think we’re there yet…you look at restaurants now you’re looking at a setting where there’s no masks right?,” he said.  

He reminds the public that this data just looked at mostly students who are more likely to have fewer symptoms or milder cases of coronavirus. And, they were wearing masks.

“So I think if you look at all these elements and you shift that in any other setting, I think before we can talk about I think we need to have way more data.”

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