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South Florida schools react to new CDC distancing guidelines

A classroom at South Tech Academy in Boynton Beach on March 22, 2021.jpg
Posted at 4:46 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 19:08:00-04

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — As students return to school following spring break, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is relaxing some of its COVID-19 guidelines.

It was quiet Monday on the campus of South Tech Academy in Boynton Beach, on the last day of spring break for students.

But school districts receiving new guidance from the CDC saying kids can now sit a bit closer to one another.

"We're still going to space them out as much as possible," said South Tech Principal Eileen Turenne.

Turenne said 47%of her 1,200 students are back to in-person instruction, but it's not always possible to keep everyone six feet apart.

"To say that every classroom had exactly six feet between the students, it was really great in some areas, and there were some areas we were challenged," Turenne said.

The CDC now said students can safely sit three feet apart in elementary, middle, and high school, as long as they wear masks.

"We had very few spots in the district that could actually go six feet spacing, so this will actually help us because I think three feet is more manageable," said Dylan Tedders, the assistant superintendent for administrative services at the Okeechobee County School District.

The district said the biggest impact from the new guidance will be on contact tracing and may help alleviate some stress on teachers.

"That might ease their mind a little bit about how they can group their students in their room," Tedders said.

The School District of Palm Beach County said classrooms will not be reconfigured, and the district will maintain six feet whenever possible.

Safety protocols will remain in place, and at South Tech, students will see little change.

"I do feel like it will be business as usual because the mask scenario has not changed," Turenne said.

New guidance from the CDC also recommends removing barriers between desks, but 6 feet should remain the standard in common areas and when masks cannot be worn.