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San Diego School Principal Reacts To New CDC Spacing Guidelines For Schools

Inside of a classroom at Bostonia Language Academy in El Cajon, March 19, 2021.

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Inside of a classroom at Bostonia Language Academy in El Cajon, March 19, 2021.

New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued Friday allows desks inside of classrooms to be spaced three feet apart, instead of six.

"It just means that we’re continuing to think through how to be safe inside a classroom environment," said Nerel Winter, principal of Bostonia Language Academy in El Cajon.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

The K-8 school is part of the Cajon Valley Union School District, which was one of the few districts to open last year while the county was in the state's red-reopening tier.

"We’ve had 11,000 students back district wide and we had one transmission, and it wasn’t between students; it was between a student and a staff member," Nerel said.

RELATED: CDC Says Schools Can Now Space Students 3 Feet Apart, Rather Than 6

Nerel said students have been able to adapt to changing guidance.

"Our students have done an awesome job," he said. "If a preschooler can follow through with protocols, than anyone can."

The district has hired nearly 100 teachers in order to allow for social distancing of students and Winter said parents are telling him they want their kids back in school.

"We’ve had direct input from our community that they want that," he said. "That they need it. And that’s something obviously we know what’s best for students is being with a person who cares about them. Our teachers are wonderful, they are very passionate individuals and they really love and care about our students."

Video by Roland Lizarondo

The school is still offering online-only options, and plans are to increase in-person learning after spring break.

The county's largest district, San Diego Unified, is still planning to open April 12, and this new guidance is not changing that.

"From the start of the crisis, San Diego Unified has relied on the best medical and scientific advice available from our colleagues at the University of California in San Diego," an SDUSD spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "This week, CDC has reviewed medical evidence for three-foot distancing. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which has authority over the way schools can open, has not yet modified its guidance on distancing in schools."

State health officials are currently reviewing the new guidance.

"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," a CDPH spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "Updated state guidance and planning resources will be issued in the coming days."

RELATED: Judge’s Order In North County School Reopening Lawsuit Applies Statewide

While new CDC guidance stipulates three feet of space between desks, state guidelines have said four feet is acceptable, but that is being challenged in court. For now, an order from a San Diego County Superior Court judge means schools are not required to comply with the four feet distancing requirement.

"As we learn more about the consequences of the judge’s decision, nothing will distract from our collective goal to reopen schools both quickly and safely," a CDPH spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

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Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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