Watch CBS News

New CDC Guidelines Recommend 3 Feet Of Social Distancing At Schools With Universal Mask Wearing

NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has new social distancing guidelines for schools. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade should now stay 3 feet apart, instead of six, in the classroom.

Some in New Jersey hope it's a sign that some normalcy will return in the spring, CBS2's Meg Baker reported Friday.

Some students have been out of the classroom for an entire year. Many others have been in a hybrid program of in-person and remote classes.

But the CDC's update means more students may fit in classrooms.

"CDC is also recommending that students be at least three feet apart in classrooms where everyone is wearing a mask and the community level of risk is low, moderate or substantial," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. "Because COVID-19 is spread more likely among older students, CDC recommends that middle and high school students should be at least six feet apart in communities where COVID-19 risk is high."

The updated guidance only applies to schools that require everyone to wear a face mask.


April Mason, from South Orange, says her kids have yet to meet their teachers in person.

"The amount of Zoom fatigue that both of them are feeling is real," Mason said. "I have no safety concerns with the 3 foot rule."

Anna Ferguson's son, who has special needs, is ready for consistency and routine.

"So important for them to feel safe and for them to be able to concentrate," said Ferguson, who's from Montclair.

So why the sudden change from 6 feet to 3 feet?

"Data evolves and knowledge evolves," said Dr. Perry N. Halkitis from Rutgers School of Public Health.

Dr. Halkitis said children, for the most part, do not become ill or severely ill with COVID, which allows for closer range interactions.

Teachers unions we spoke with said they are comfortable with the science, but that other precautions need to stay in place.


"School districts will have to really look at changing numbers of cohorts, seeing how many students fit in rooms, bringing back furniture and things that they had taken out before," said Dr. Christopher Tamburro from the New Jersey Education Association.

"Cohorting" means keeping students in groups with the same peers and staff throughout the school day to reduce the risk of spreading the virus throughout the school.

The CDC still recommends cohorting.

"Adults still need to stay 6 feet away, making sure your ventilation is adequate, that your windows are operational, making sure universal masking, vaccines, testing," said NJEA's Eloy Delgado.

There is a nationwide push to get teachers vaccinated. Essex County started their program Friday in an effort to restore in-person instruction.

CBS2's Meg Baker contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.