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Washington adopts 3-foot distance rule in schools in line with CDC guidance

Inslee announced social distancing requirements for students would be decreased from 6 feet of separation to 3 feet, effective immediately.

OLYMPIA, Wash — Social distancing requirements between Washington students in kindergarten through 12th grade are being revised to be consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced social distancing requirements for students would be decreased from 6 feet of separation to 3 feet, effective immediately.

School districts will need to adjust their plans based on this new guidance, including those who have already implemented a 6-foot rule, bringing students back to the classroom.

By the fall, no school district should be using the 6-foot minimum between students, Inslee said.

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While discussing the success North Mason Public School District has had with its plan, Superintendent Dana Rosenbach said a 3-foot rule would take time to implement. Though there would be a benefit in how many students could return, that would need to be bargained with the teachers' union. More students would also mean potential transportation and scheduling changes.

The CDC still recommends 6 feet between staff and between staff and students. It also recommends 6 feet of distance for students during certain circumstances, such as when they are eating.

Teachers and students are asked to continue wearing masks.

The governor issued an executive order that requires all kindergarten through sixth-grade students an opportunity to engage in both online and in-person learning by April 5. All older students must be offered at least two days of in-person learning by April 19.

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By April 19, all districts must meet at least 30% of average weekly instructional hours as on-campus learning for all students.

No student can be offered fewer than two, partial days of in-person learning.

The update comes about a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adjusted its guidance on COVID-19 safety protocols for schools by relaxing the social distancing recommendations from 6 feet to 3 feet in classrooms as long as they wear masks. 

The revised recommendations represent a turn away from the 6-foot standard that has sharply limited how many students some schools can accommodate. Some places have had to remove desks, stagger scheduling and take other steps to keep children apart.

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