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Press Release

NEA responds to CDC's guidance on distance for students in classrooms

NEA President Becky Pringle: Now is not the time to let down our guard
Published: March 19, 2021

WASHINGTON, DCToday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an operational strategy guide for K-12 schools recommending that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least three feet in classroom settings. Previously the recommendation was six feet.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Becky Pringle:   

"From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Education Association has urged that we follow the science in determining how best to ensure the safety of students, families, and educators. The Association has also fought unceasingly to ensure that students and educators have the resources they need to safely and equitably return to in-person instruction.

"At first glance, the change to three feet distance for students in classrooms will be particularly challenging for large urban school districts and those that have not yet had access to the resources necessary to fully implement the very COVID-19 mitigation measures that the CDC says are essential to safe in-person instruction, no matter how far apart students in classrooms are. And while distancing is one important strategy, we must also continue to prioritize all mitigation strategies including vaccinations, wearing masks, hand washing, healthy school buildings and a system of testing, tracing, and quarantining.

"For the sake of public trust and clarity, we urge the CDC to provide far more detail about the rationale for the change from six feet to three feet for students in classrooms, clearly and publicly account for differences in types of school environments, new virus variants, differences in mitigation compliance, and how study participants were tested for the virus. We are concerned that the CDC has changed one of the basic rules for how to ensure school safety without demonstrating certainty that the change is justified by the science and can be implemented in a manner that does not detract from the larger long-term needs of students.

"We welcome the push to provide for widespread testing and vaccination, and that all schools will have the funding they need to fully implement all of the mitigation measures consistently and with fidelity. We are so close to being able to ensure that all our schools can be so much safer. But as public health officials have rightly cautioned, in the face of new variants and a race to make vaccinations widely available, this is not the time to let down our guard."


Follow on Twitter at @NEAmedia and @BeckyPringle  



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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at 

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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.