Following the CDC’s guidance that schools can now hold in-person classes with 3 feet of social distance rather than 6, the New Jersey Department of Health today released revised guidance on K-12 in-class instruction.

Here is what was shared today during Governor Murphy’s press briefing:

–If masking and frequent hand washing can be maintained by students, educators, and support staff in a classroom, then full-time, in-person instruction can begin with the distance between students within that classroom reduced to three feet

–This guidance applies to all elementary grade levels, across all levels of community transmission risk. It also applies to middle and high school grades at low and moderate risk levels

–In communities where the rate of transmission is listed as “high,” six feet to the maximum extent practicable will remain the recommended standard social distance for middle and high schools

–Six feet of distance is critical in indoor common areas when masking is not an option, such as when students are eating and drinking in the school cafeteria. This applies to all schools, regardless of grade or risk factor.

Parents commenting on Gov. Murphy’s Facebook page quickly noted that this last bullet is not realistic in crowded schools.

“Our school district can’t open for the full day because the cafeterias aren’t large enough to feed the kids with these rules. This does not help us,” one mom said.

“This is a joke for lunch periods. Two people per table on 8 feet tables. Not all will be fed in a day…get over yourself and just get schools back to the way they were…let these kids have their childhood back,” another wrote.

Many others expressed worry that the new guidelines won’t offer adequate protection against further spread.

“With cases on the uptick, I can’t see how going from 6 to 3 feet is a good idea. We get emails on a regular basis from the high school when a student, teacher, or other staff member tests positive,” another commented. “Now you want them to be closer with more people in the room? We have states dropping the mask mandates and people from NJ traveling there and back for spring break/vacation putting us all at risk when we encounter them at the grocery store and elsewhere. It is the end of the school year and it would make more sense to continue to err on the side of caution.”

After the guidance was released, Murphy asked schools to “meaningfully move forward with a return to in-person instruction whether it be full-time or through a hybrid schedule.” There are currently 143 school districts open for all in-person instruction, 534 open for hybrid instruction and 90 open for all-remote learning.

Murphy also addressed upcoming holiday gatherings during his briefing, urging families to keep their Passover and Easter gatherings limited to their immediate bubbles. Easter egg hunts should adhere to the outdoor gathering capacity of 50 people. 

New Jersey’s limits for religious services remain at 50 percent capacity, but people should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. Indoor gatherings are still limited to 25 people and outdoor should not exceed 50 people.

What do you think about the new guidelines? What is your school district doing?