Illinois Department of Education
illinois social distancing

Illinois reduces social distancing requirement for schools to 3 feet

March 10, 2021
Reducing the requirement from 6 feet is expected to help schools resume in-person instruction more quickly.

Illinois education officials have announced that they are reducing the social distancing requirement in schools from 6 feet to 3 feet as long as educators have been vaccinated.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the new guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health is expected to help school districts reopen sooner and with higher student capacity.           

“It reflects what we have learned about the transmission of Covid-19 in school settings, as more students in Illinois and across the country have returned safely to in-person learning during the 2020-21 school year,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala says in a letter to state educators.

Masks, contact tracing, school cleaning and hand washing still are key methods to preventing the spread of Covid-19, officials say.

“Maintaining 6 feet remains the safest distance, but schools can operate at no less than 3 feet in order to provide in-person learning,” the state guidance said.

Unvaccinated staff still should keep 6 feet social distance because they remain more vulnerable to infection, officials said. And 6 feet is required “when face masks are removed in limited situations” that are high-risk, such as lunch. 

Many districts have been operating with fewer than half their students back in-person — including Chicago Public Schools at 29% — so the state’s new social distancing recommendations may not come into play this spring for lots of schools.

The switch could be vital for districts looking to have more students back ij classrooms in the fall — if less space is required between desks, more can fit in a single room. That could also help principals facing staffing shortages since, under these guidelines, classes could be consolidated if not enough teachers are available.

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