CDC releases guidelines for returning to school in the fall

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has released considerations for how schools across the country should reopen.

The new recommendations released by the CDC this week are ways in which schools can help protect students, teachers, administrators, and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19.

“The more people a student or staff member interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread,” the CDC says.

Students and staffs’ return to school has been classified in three different levels:

- Lowest risk is when students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
- An increased risk is small, in-person classes stay together with the same teacher, remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects.
- High risk is traditional full-sized classes where students are not spaced apart. Students share classroom materials or supplies and mix between classes and activities.

Should state and local leaders opt to resume more traditional schooling in the fall, the CDC described several strategies for slowing the spread of COVID-19. Including standard hand-washing techniques and masks for teachers and students, the CDC offered guidelines on maintaining a safe and clean school building:

- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in the school and on buses at least daily.
- Limiting the use of shared art supplies, toys and gym equipment.
- Keeping each child’s belongings separated from others or limiting the use of supplies to one group at a time between cleanings.
- Ensure ventilation systems are operating and there is circulation of outdoor air.
- Space seats and desks at least six feet apart. Turn desks that face each other to face the same direction or have children sit on one side of a table.
- Create space on buses by keeping one child per row and skipping rows if possible.
- Install barriers and sneeze guards where needed, like in offices, or tape lines on floors or sidewalks.
- Close all communal spaces like cafeterias, dining halls and playgrounds.
- Have children bring their own meals or serve individually plated meals in classrooms with disposable utensils.
- Setting staggered arrival and drop-off times to limit contact between students and parents.

The CDC also has several strategies to help schools in preparation for when a student, teacher or staff member gets sick.


The CDC says implementation of these recommendations should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.