The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged school districts to fully reopen in the fall without mandatory coronavirus vaccination of all students and staff.
Teachers and students who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus are not recommended to wear masks. Those who are unvaccinated — including children under the age of twelve for whom a vaccine has not yet been approved — should continue to wear masks, according to the new CDC guidelines.
The guidance emphasizes that schools should continue to offer in-person learning even in cases where some coronavirus mitigation strategies are not feasible. For example, while students should sit at least three feet apart, in-person learning should continue if maintaining that social distancing is impossible.
“Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools where not everyone is fully vaccinated should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures, but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement,” the CDC recommends.
The guidance comes after a year in which most American students participated in some form of virtual schooling. Various teachers’ unions have resisted returning to in-person learning for fear of renewed coronavirus outbreaks.
“This a big moment,” Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC, told the New York Times. “It’s also a recognition that there are real costs to keeping children at home, to keeping them out of school, that school is so important in terms of children’s socialization and development and it provides other supports as well.”
Studies of school districts in Wisconsin and Massachusetts indicated that schools can reopen safely amid the pandemic as long as they employ mitigation measures for coronavirus.