Over the last six weeks, the emerging science on COVID-19 has been updated by the scientific community to reflect that fact that physical distancing at 3 feet and 6 feet can both be effective mitigation approaches, especially when combined with other strategies such as wearing face masks. It is important to note, that we are messaging as a school district that it is the combination of our mitigation strategies working together that will increase the safety and lower the risk of infection for both staff and students, like wearing face masks AND focusing on physical distancing in class.
As part of our reopening plans, our goal is be at or above 6 feet of physical distancing for students while they are seated and working in class. From analyzing our typical classroom spaces we believe we can safely place 16 to 17 students in a classroom in our elementary schools and middle school and maintain 6 feet of social distancing. In our high school, we believe we can safely place 18 to 19 students in a classroom and maintain 6 feet of social distancing. Based on our current parent responses from our July 2020 reopening survey to parents, we can place the students that want to come to in person school this year in classrooms and be able to meet that 6 feet of physical distancing in nearly all settings. However, we also realize that school is a dynamic place, and it is our combination of seeking these class sizes, along with our other mitigation strategies such as face masks specifically that will keep students and staff safe when they are under 6 feet from each other. We do not currently project we will have classroom settings where students and staff will be required to be less than 3 feet of physical distance from each other in our general education settings for extended periods of time. Further personal protective gear (such as face shields etc.) will be provided for staff and students if they will be closer to each other than these guidelines for extended periods of time.
The specific science on the 3 foot to 6 foot physical distancing guideline:
A June 1st 2020 study published in The Lancet looked at 172 different observational studies from 16 countries and 6 continents of the coronavirus and other similar viruses to find that that transmission rate of the virus was low at both the 3 foot and 6 foot physical distance range in both health care and community settings, such as schools. Other countries in Europe and Asia have been updating their physical distancing guidelines to this 3 foot to 6 foot range as a results of these findings especially as they moved away from their initial school reopening plans and found that combining multiple mitigation strategies, which is what the Londonderry School District is proposing, is what will keep students and staff safe.
Below is a chart that shows the findings from The Lancet study referenced above that shows the findings around 3 feet and 6 feet of physical distancing. The study considers a school where students also wear face masks a setting that has a “low baseline for risk.”