Hawley urges state health commissioner to implement ‘3-foot rule’ in classrooms

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 March 2021 at 9:15 am

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley is urging State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to follow the federal government’s decision and implement the 3-foot guideline for spacing between students’ desks.

School districts in the state have been operating so far this year with state guidance that desks need to be at least 6 feet apart. That has prevented many districts from bringing back all of their students for in-person classes every day. Many school districts are on hybrid schedules, alternating groups of students in classrooms to keep the capacity down.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its guidelines for school districts, reducing the minimum spacing between desks from 6 to 3 feet. The State Health Department would now need to accept those guidelines for school districts in New York to be able to move desks closer and have more students in classrooms. Those students should be wearing masks while in the classroom, the CDC said.

“I believe that remote learning is in many ways harmful to the development of young students, as they are deprived of the opportunity to socialize with their peers and develop critical social skills,” Hawley said. “I also raised the point that for many students, home is not an environment conducive to learning, and many students who face adverse circumstances at home rely on school as a place they know they can be kept safe and fed a nutritious meal.”

Hawley said he sent a letter to Zucker, the state health commissioner, asking him to accept the CDC guidelines for the state.

“This would allow students to return to classrooms full-time and end remote learning,” Hawley said. “The American Academy of Pediatrics has acknowledged that many nations have been able to re-open schools with a 3-foot standard in place, without increasing the spread of Covid-19 in the community.”