The CDC’s new 3-foot guideline for distancing students in the classroom doesn’t have much impact in California because the state Department of Public Health, for now, is standing by its 6-foot distancing requirement.
School districts in the state are supposed to follow CDPH guidelines but many are skirting them, especially after a San Diego County judge issued a temporary restraining order that, in effect, prevents the state from enforcing distancing rules, among other things.
The Poway Unified School District was one of the districts involved in that lawsuit. The district began holding limited in-person classes for its middle and high school students this week.
“This week we had them back one day a week, and next week our plan is to have them back two days a week, and we’re excited,” said PUSD spokesperson Christine Paik. “All of our schools now are open to in-person learning.”
Paik said that each time the CDPH or the CDC change guidelines, districts have to try to sort through a lot of confusion.
“The word of the year is pivot. So you go in one direction and then something changes and you’ve got to be prepared to pivot and go in another direction," Paik said.
Poway Unified requires all students and staff to wear masks, to keep at least 4 feet between students, and to follow other COVID-19 safety protocols as they try to do what’s best for students.
In the Cajon Valley Elementary School District, classes have been in session for 10 months, according to Superintendent David Miyashiro.
“The CDC and CDPH have changed guidance probably a dozen times in the last eight months, so our message has been consistency and safety practices,” Miyashiro said. “We’ve had zero in-school transmission student-to-student and one student-to-staff that happened early in the school year, after 10 months of school with 11,000 kids.”
Miyashiro said the newly-set CDC guidelines won’t affect what his district does. He plans to continue in-person learning, using masks and 4-foot distancing whenever possible.
NBC 7 reached out to the CDPH to see if they have any plans to change the distancing requirements in classrooms. We received two statements. This is the first:
’”The science on physical distancing in classrooms is evolving. As Governor Newsom noted on Monday, California’s public health experts have been closely monitoring the emerging science for weeks, with the goal of updating state guidance to align with current evidence.”
The second statement hinted that change may be on the way:
”State public health experts have been, along with the CDC, closely monitoring the emerging science on COVID-19 safety and schools, including the role of physical distancing. Updated state guidance and planning resources will be issued in the coming days.”