Push to reopen (more) schools gets help from new CDC guideline

Social distance requirement for children in schools is reduced from 6 feet to 3 feet

The push to open more schools to in-person learning got another boost Friday, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is updating its physical distancing guidelines for children in schools from 6 feet to 3 feet.

The CDC said three new studies support distancing of 3 feet between students as long as everyone is wearing a mask. When wearing a mask is not possible, such as time in the cafeteria, the CDC said 6 feet is the appropriate distance.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday that the science is changing.

“There are now emerging studies on the question between 3 feet and 6 feet,” she said.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — a $1.9 trillion stimulus package — includes $130 billion to help schools reopen.

Though, it must be noted, many schools in New Jersey already have returned to in-person learning — indicating money may not be the only thing preventing kids from returning to the classroom. Some districts have made it work. (See story here.)

Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) introduced a resolution highlighting the need to reopen schools for in-person instruction.

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill. (File photo)

Sherrill’s resolution calls attention to the potentially lifelong impact that the pandemic is having on students, their mental health, their educational achievement and their families. It also highlights the need to prioritize teachers and school staff in vaccination distribution and efforts to ensure the safety of students and staff alike. Additionally, Sherrill fought for the passage of the American Rescue Plan, which includes an estimated $2.5 billion in funding for New Jersey schools that will help them reopen safely.

“I am so grateful for the support that this resolution has received,” Sherrill said. “As a mom of four New Jersey students, this is an incredibly important and personal issue to me.

“This outpouring of support for my resolution shows that tackling this crisis, getting children back in classrooms and doing everything we can to mitigate the long-lasting impacts on our students is truly a community effort.

“I was thrilled to see Gov. (Phil) Murphy voice his support for getting students back to in-person instruction at his briefing earlier this week. Educators, school staff, working families, community organizations and public officials should all work towards the same goal — getting our kids back in school and providing the education they deserve.”