The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is releasing revised guidance to help local health departments assist their schools on K-12 in-class operations. The new guidance, which follows an updated operational strategy for K-12 schools announced last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, includes the following:

If masking and frequent hand washing can be maintained by students, educators and support staff in a classroom, then full-time, in-person instruction can begin with the distance between students within that classroom reduced to three feet.

This updated social distancing guidance applies to all elementary grade levels, across all levels of community transmission risk. It also applies to middle and high school grades at low and moderate risk levels.

In communities where the rate of transmission is listed by NJDOH as “high,” six feet to the maximum extent practicable will remain the recommended standard social distance for middle and high schools.

For all schools, regardless of grade or risk factor, six feet of distance is critical in indoor common areas when masking is not an option, such as when students are eating and drinking in the school cafeteria.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said, “With this guidance being released, now is the time for all of our schools to meaningfully move forward with a return to in-person instruction whether it be through full-time or through a hybrid schedule.”