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Parents, teachers: Six-feet social distancing doesn't happen in Utah classrooms

Posted at 3:40 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 19:31:15-04

As teachers and parents heard the new guidelines for social distancing announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, some said it hasn’t been happening in Utah’s classrooms.

Anywhere from 20 to 30 kids can be found in each classroom, and try as they might, teachers said it's nearly impossible to social distance.

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The layout of Michele Barker’s classroom in the Box Elder School District shows a few desks together, with an attempt to social distance from other clustered desks.

“At this age, they still need to work with partners often,” said Barker. “It’s pretty near impossible to do six feet apart.”

There’s not enough room in the classroom to move their desks six feet apart, and even if they could, Barker said they haven’t been able to keep the kids from moving close to each other once they're out of their desks.

“Kid are kids, and when they get in line, it’s hard to enforce six feet apart,” said Barker.

READ: No deaths in Utah caused by COVID-19 vaccines, officials say

It's a challenge Shelly Nazer’s middle school student in Cache County has found too.

“They are not able to stay six feet apart in the hallways,” said Nazer.

This issue makes the new social distancing guidelines announced by the CDC not very relevant.

“I think the biggest challenge with the new recommendations is strict adherence to mask compliance,” said Nazer. ”With elementary school, that’s difficult to keep those kids wearing masks consistently if they’re going to be three feet apart.”

READ: Intermountain to keep mask guidelines after Utah mandate ends

Heidi Matthews, who teaches and fills the role as president of the Utah Education Association, said the mask mandate has saved lives.

"We have to realize it looks so different in every rural, urban, elementary school, high school I don’t think there’s a one size fits all," said Matthews.

Though restrictions are beginning to lift elsewhere, the mandate is still in place at school.

“We need to remember that we’re still in a pandemic,” said Matthews. “Our schools really need to make sure we follow the science and protect our communities within our schools.”