ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) – The new guidance says students can safely sit at least three feet apart in the classroom but masks still need to be worn and other best practices need to stay in place.
“What they’re saying is that some recent studies indicate there wasn’t a clear sign of greater spread, a greater number of cases in places that couldn’t achieve the full six feet as those that could.” Dr. Joel Tumlison with the Arkansas Dept. of Health said.
Desks could get even closer in Arkansas public schools with the CDC’s latest guidance allowing students to sit within three feet apart while masked.
“We’re highly encouraging districts to work with their committees as things change but also keep in practice those best practices that have worked well,” Kimberly Mundell with the Arkansas Dept. of Education said. “We want school districts to finish strong.”
While a six-foot distance hasn’t been a requirement in the state, some schools still tried to abide by the CDC’s recommendation– like Siloam Springs Public School District.
“In most of our classrooms, we were not able to space kids a full six feet apart because of space limitations in our schools and so the three-foot would give us more leeway there,” Superintendent Jody Wiggins said. “But, we have had very, very, very few of our quarantined students actually turn out positive.”
The CDC study still recommends teachers and other adults continue to stay six feet from one another and students and that masks are key in keeping everyone safe.
“If we’re going to loosen up on one like spacing, it makes masking all that more important,” Dr. Tumlison said.
The revisions also include removing the recommendations for plastic shields or other barriers between desks because there’s not a lot of evidence of their effectiveness.
Dr. Tumlison says he doesn’t think the changes made to physical distancing inside of school will happen in other public settings mainly because schools are in a controlled environment. He says schools have assigned seating, regularly scheduled cleanings and studies show the transmission of the virus student-to-student is low.
It’s also important to note, according to the CDC guideline, contact tracing, quarantine periods, and what is considered a close contact have not changed.
The revisions are more so letting teachers and schools know if you can’t keep kids six feet apart, you are still protecting them if they’re at least three feet apart, and other safety measures like masks and practicing good hygiene are still in place.