In a new sign of progress in the battle against the coronavirus, health officials have reduced the minimum required distance between students in a classroom from six feet to three feet. The change came quickly after the CDC announced the new three foot guidelines last Friday. The California Department of Public Health, which sets the baseline rules that Ventura County schools must follow, soon followed suit. Ventura County Public Health, which has the authority to impose stricter rules than the state, also adopted the three foot distancing guideline. Studies show the reduced distancing between students in class does not significantly increase the risk of virus spread as long as students and staff are all correctly wearing masks on a consistent basis. The rules still require six foot distancing between students and staff members.
The space between desks is one of the critical factors that determines how many students can be at school at the same time and impacts the number of in-person learning days schools are able to offer each week. While the new guidelines are a welcomed development, they won’t necessarily result in changes to school districts’ existing reopening plans. Most local districts have already implemented or will soon launch hybrid schedules that include a mix of in-person and distance learning at all grade levels. These schedules were designed to allow students to start returning to class without jeopardizing their safety and that of teachers and staff. Altering the complex schedules, classroom configurations and labor agreements that are already in place may not be practical for some districts with the end of the school year fast approaching. “I want to recognize the great work our school districts are doing to digest and adapt to these rapidly changing circumstances,” said Dr. Cesar Morales, Deputy Superintendent at the Ventura County Office of Education. “I know all of our education leaders are focused on maximizing learning opportunities for students while keeping everyone as safe as possible.”
In another new development, State health officials have now said that band, drumline, choir and drama – in addition to cheerleading – may all resume while following the guidelines for low-contact youth recreational activities. “These changes are all positive steps toward getting our schools fully reopened,” Dr. Cesar Morales said. “This is a direct result of the wonderful work our community is doing to fight the coronavirus and I urge everyone to stay vigilant in their efforts to keep the virus at bay.”
Each school district independently develops its own reopening plans and communicates the details to its students and families. Updates on the impacts of COVID-19 on Ventura County schools and answers to common questions are available at www.vcoe.org/COVID-19.