Yakima Valley school administrators are in favor of the move to 3 feet of social distancing in classrooms as state-level discussions continue.
The discussion comes after guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday allowing students to be spaced 3 feet apart in elementary school classrooms. The previous guidance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic called for 6 feet, as do Washington state guidelines.
If implemented in Washington, the 3-foot rule could give schools more flexibility to bring back students for in-person learning.
Kevin Chase, superintendent of Educational Service District 105, an agency that supports area school districts, said the governor’s office asked the nine regional ESDs for their preference about whether the rules take effect in the spring or fall.
“Our region is wholeheartedly behind spring — right now, to give us the ability to go from 6 to 3,” Chase said of the required distancing between individuals on school campuses. “At least the school districts are.”
Many school districts in Yakima County have had young students experiencing in-person learning since the fall. The Yakima Health District approved bringing back high school students in February.
The distance change could mean more in-person learning hours, and less use of remote learning.
It’s yet to be announced whether state officials plan to adopt the new federal guidelines, but they are being weighed.
Districts across the state are required by the state to provide some in-person learning for elementary students by April 5 and for middle and high school students by April 19.
In addition to social distancing guidelines, schools are required to follow a series of safety precautions while offering in-person learning, such as masks and regular sanitation.
The CDC said if there’s a high level of community COVID spread, spacing should stay at 6 feet at the high school level, but can go to 3 feet in elementary schools if students and teachers are taking precautions. Six feet should still be maintained in common areas and during choir practice, assemblies and sports events.
The CDC removed the recommendation for plastic shields and other barriers between desks, saying there wasn’t much evidence they prevent transmission.