JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Public Schools said Friday the new relaxed guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will improve the district’s ability to administer state tests.
Due to the relaxed social distancing, schools can now test a whole class at one time.
“This will allow schools to create testing scenarios very close to normal for students,” the district wrote on its website.
Under the new guidance, the CDC says students can now be spaced 3 feet apart in the classroom instead of 6 feet.
With safety measures like masks in place, studies have shown that schools have not been the hotspots for the coronavirus that many had feared early on in the pandemic. Although there have been 41 teachers and nine students who have died due to COVID-19, according to the Florida Education Association.
A Jacksonville infectious disease expert told News4Jax the virus is not as transmittable in a classroom environment because students and teachers are wearing masks sitting down and are not raising their voices.
He said the new guidance is safe for a classroom environment.
“It’s transmitted by respiratory secretions and the farther the secretions can go the more likely 5:45 when you’re in the hallway shouting to a friend it’s the opportunity for air to go father is likely,” said Dr. Mobeen H. Rathore who specializes in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UF Health Jacksonville.
The CDC still recommends staying six feet apart in school lobbies and hallways and at times when masks can’t be worn like lunchtime. Teachers say this new guidance won’t really affect local classrooms.
“Our desks aren’t able to be separated by six feet anyway,” said Whitney Greenwell, a Southside Middle School teacher.
The CDC also removed recommendations that plastic shields need to be put between desks because there is no evidence that actually prevents the spread of COVID-19.
DCPS, which put shields in place before the school year, said its desk shields will stay in place.
As far as testing, the district and schools will communicate final plans once those are complete.
The district also said it wants to make virtual students as comfortable as possible taking the upcoming state tests. There will be 5-to-6 foot distancing and extended hours for those test-takers.
In addition to assessment procedures, district leadership said it will look into the possibility of limited end-of-the-year field trips.
“The district remains committed to the safety of students, staff and the school community, and will continue to strive to remain in alignment with CDC guidelines. If any additional changes arise following review of CDC guidelines, the district will notify families,” the district said.